In the Belly of the Beast

New York is full of people.

As someone who gets panicky at the thought of getting swallowed up by crowds and crowds of people, all touching and pressing into eachother, this thought was quite intimidating…but thankfully, not enough to hot-glue me to my home.  So last week, I ventured out of my little cave to travel to New York to visit fellow artist Lori Nelson for the opening of an art show called Beasticon, to which she had graciously invited me to contribute.

As an army brat, I’m no stranger at ALL to travel.  I’ve wandered over all PARTS of the U.S. and Europe since I was young.  I LOVE IT!  But as I get older, for some reason, the frenzied swarm feeling I get in a crowd makes me uncomfortable, and I do my best to stay away from those situations.  (I used to stock up and hide out in my apartment for nearly the entire WEEK of St. Paddy’s Day in college when I lived in Savannah, Georgia, just to avoid the crowds.)

I’ve actually been to New York before, but in a different place, in a different time, to visit my very best friend.  It seems like every person’s experience in New York is probably VERY different parts of the same elephant

The cab ride there, jammed into the streets bumper to bumper and side by side hundreds of other cars when I first got there was slightly disconcerting.  I was happy I wasn’t driving.  “Holiday traffic?” I asked the cabbie.  “Just rush hour,” he replied.  I finally arrived in my friend’s lovely neighborhood, and could even see the Statue of Liberty as a little speck far off in the distance from her rooftop.

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The day of the show, while Lori worked on fine-tuning things in the gallery, she sent me on my way to explore the Museum of Natural History.  No problem, I thought, only slightly nervously.  I was wandering the streets of Paris on public transportation when I was 16 without knowing the language, I could surely handle New York!  She made it easy and sent me to the direct train there.

As for the crowds and crowds on the subway?  I actually (strangely) felt quite comfortable there.  I LOVE people-watching.   And probably because everyone was actively GOING somewhere, I didn’t feel as swallowed up and impeded…it felt more like being part of a huge circulatory system, everyone moving, everyone going where they’re going, and not really getting in the way of anyone else.  I liked that.  And I think I ultimately decided it might not be the CROWDS that make me so uncomfortable as much as it is the feeling of my movement being restricted–my ability to GET OUT impeded–that puts me in a panic.  (Good to know…)

Do you all remember me talking about my art drops?  How I made five ornaments, and I was going to hide them all along my trip?  Well, before I went in, I stopped at a side cart for a falafel, sat at the “Soldier” bench in front of the Museum of Natural History, and left my little artwork behind, tucked in a crevasse.  (Later that same day, I actually got a wonderful email from the family who found it–a father taking his kids to the museum had stopped for a hot dog and they found it.  The mom sent me an email thank you, telling me it made them smile–which made ME smile.  Joy!)

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“Would you like to go the bar, Mica?  Would you like to go out and party?  Would you like to see all the monuments and landmarks typical of our great state?” asks New York.   “No please.  I’d rather just go to the Museum of Natural History.”

Here are a few photos from the Museum, which had so many beautiful things to look at.  Myla loves okapi (who doesn’t love something that looks like a giraffe with a zebra-butt??!), so I was sure to take a photo of them to show her later, and most people seemed to walk right past these amazing murals…

I kept waiting for the displays to blink and come to life, because doesn’t that happen in the movies?  I feel like most of what I know of New York comes from movies…

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I was hoping for a larger insect exhibit, but I made my way to the additional butterfly exhibit…I prefer moths and beetles, but the butterflies were beautiful, and I found one case with a few beetles in it…

I kept hoping butterflies would land on my hand or my arm, but apparently they sensed my longing, and avoided the opportunity for a photo op.

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Next up:  the Hall of Biodiversity.  Holy cow!  And kangaroo….and turtle…and…well, you get the idea.  A full wall showing the different classifications of species in the world, with some amazingly artistic layouts…  (Later, when I showed Myla the photo of this, she asked, “So, were they all DEAD?!??”….Uh.  Yes.)

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Apparently, they had an origami demo recently, and in one large hallway, this beautiful Christmas tree was FULL of origami animals of all kinds.  It was amazing!  I wanted to stuff it in my suitcase and take it all home.

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My favorite room, though, was the ocean room with the big blue whale.  “You have to see the whale room,” the lady at the front desk had told me.  “We’re famous for that.”  I wasn’t expecting much, but after the hustle of NY life, this room was quiet and dark, with only ocean sounds playing over the speakers.  It made me take a deep breath.  It made me sigh.  It made me calm.  It was sooooo relaxing that I decided to get my sketchbook out and draw for awhile.  Nearly an hour later, I figured it was probably time to head out…

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Since I was a little early getting back to the Mark Miller Gallery, I took myself out to dinner across the street at Dudley’s and wined & dined myself, drawing by candlelight.

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I got back just in time for the show to begin, and people started coming in right away.  There was such a mix of different types of art, installation, and sculpture, it was altogether fun to look at.

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There was a performance by Matthew Silver, who is apparently a New York staple, popping up all over to remind us that in a daily life full of technology, we might want to “slow down,” to “stop buying stuff,” and that “love is the answer.”  I had done a portrait of him for the show, and he was nice enough to pose with (and even sign) it.

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One great treat was getting to meet people I had only known online.  I’ve followed the work of fellow ballpoint artist (and painter) Michael Fusco (who goes by @aicixhxan on Instagram–Aic Ixh Xan meaning “As I can”), so it was amazing to meet him in person, and see his amazing sketchbook firsthand, as well as talk art and ballpoint pens with him.

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I will admit, that I have a great difficulty being a social butterfly, so while I did my best to mingle, I often just sat sketching in my sketchbook or people-watching (both of which I LOVE to do) at the front desk where a few of my books were, which caused several people (understandably) to mistake me for the secretary.  (I work way better one-on-one.  Crowds of people really do confuse me…)  While I was sitting there drawing, a little girl came up to me and asked if she could draw for a minute, too.  Not because she knew that I collaborate with my daughter.  Just because she saw me sketching in a sketchbook and wanted to draw, too.  🙂

Next day, Lori showed me all over the rest of New York.  We went to Stephen Romano’s gallery, and I saw the works of several contemporary artists I actually recognized and was very familiar with, and met a few great people.  I got to see Lori’s studio near the Manhattan Bridge.  She took me to the Neue Galerie, where we saw the works of one of my long-time favorite artists, Egon Schiele (who is sometimes very NSFW).

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And whoops, uh-oh.  I nearly forgot to hide the rest of my ornaments!  After the Schiele exhibit, outside the Neue Gallery, I tucked one behind a no parking sign that was taped on a lamppost.  Later, I balanced one on the ledge of one of the mosaic lampposts near Gem Spa.  Lori took me to her favorite dumpling place, Dumpling Man, where I made her order ALMOST one of everything, and now it is MY very favorite dumpling place.  (OMNOMNOMNOM)

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Finally, we caught a show at the Cotton Candy Machine, where I also was able to put a few books up for sale, and got to see a larger-than-life piece that Lori did (and she showed me the bug that met an unfortunate end in the resin coating of the painting).

Oh!  The last two ornaments:  One in the giant burger at Paul’s Burgers, and one around the corner of the Cotton Candy Machine, tucked in the door mural done by Grace Lang (@grooseling on Instagram).

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So there it is.  My trip to New York to visit the Beast.  And I learned one thing…..

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New York is full of PEOPLE.  And they’re not the intimidating, heartless, tough-skinned people they show you in the movies.  It’s a place where you can ride the subway arteries, and pop up in a variety of VERY DIFFERENT WORLDS.  Each stop is a new planet.  I met some wonderful people, and while I still carried my snail shell, I found I didn’t always need to hide inside.  So thank you to Lori for inviting me!  Thank you to all the people I met.  Thank you to New York, for not swallowing me up.  I had a fantastic time.

3 responses

  1. Oh what a great roundup! Mica, it was such a pleasure to show you NYC. You’re just the right kinda person to take around: fast-walker, curious, friendly! People love your work here in NYC. Thank you for visiting!

  2. sounds like a great trip! glad you enjoyed yourself.

  3. I love your posts! Thank you for doing what you do!

    Sophia

    >

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