I’m a Cat Mommy!

Lounging Kitties

It was May 8, 2016 – Mother’s Day. My family was getting ready for a barbecue to celebrate the awesome job my mother and grandmother have done. School was winding down, and I was being lazy – napping on the sofa in the den. All of a sudden, I hear my father scream “Karen, Malka, come here!” I only assumed they had done something wrong to annoy him, so I ignored the call and continued my slumber. How strange, there’s no more yelling! Maybe I should check this out.

Out of the den I walked, half asleep, and I made my way to the backyard deck. There, my sister was crying. In her hands was a little black fur ball – a kitten! My dad had found two baby kittens in our coal bin! Of course, I needed to hold one as well. “I thought Truffles was looking a little fat,” my sister got out between bursts of crying. “I want Truffles’ babies!!!”

Being away at college for the past four years, I didn’t know the daily goings-on back at home. Apparently, there was a black cat roaming around our backyard for the past year. My sister dubbed her Truffles. These were her babes.

All of our minds were a blur. We couldn’t think straight! My dad went to buy some more coal for our barbecue, and it was up to me, my sister, and my mom what to do next. We thought the best option was to place these little critters in a tub so that we wouldn’t get our scent all over them. We didn’t want Truffles to abandon them! By the time my father returned home from buying coal, Truffles had snatched one of her babies and disappeared. My dad was distraught – he wanted these kittens for himself! Truffles didn’t come back for the other baby until she was protected by the dark of night. Again, my dad was upset that he missed out on the opportunity to snatch them himself.

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***

Fast forward a week or two. We assumed that maybe Truffles had hidden her babies underneath the shed in our backyard. We were right, but it took some time to actually discover the little ones again. I was still going to school at the time, and so I only was able to seek these little guys out on weekends. On top of all this, five houses down from us was another litter of kittens! KITTEN SEASON! I made it my job to walk from my backyard to the neighbor’s house several times a day to check on the beautiful babes.

I crocheted a little doll for the kittens to play with. I spent hours by my shed, getting bitten by mosquitos, just to see those little eyes peer at me. I fed them. I watched them. I wanted them.

For a while, I really thought that my dad would take the initiative to snatch them for himself. “I’m doing it this week,” he would say. That never happened – my mom didn’t want kittens in the house after the loss of Spooky and Mush (the cats I grew up with). When it finally became obvious that these kittens wouldn’t be my dad’s, I took action.

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***

I’m a bookworm. I’m a facts person. I researched. A LOT. After doing some basic math, I realized that the kittens were nearing 10 weeks old. I started to worry that it was getting too late to socialize them and get them used to humans. I took a stand, and insisted that I capture the two kittens – for their own safety. It is the natural cycle of a cat’s life, to be raised by a mother, and then adopted out. Overpopulation is a very real problem for cats – they breed like crazy! The responsible thing to do is neuter and spay. In my neighborhood, TNR (trap-neuter-return) is a program that allows strays and ferals to remain in the wild, but limits overpopulation by getting them fixed.

With the help of my family, I went to the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter and got humane traps to get my little cat babies. Unfortunately, I was only able to capture one. I tried for three days, but the other baby seemed to just disappear! It was very upsetting for me – I felt like a failure to myself, to the kitten I captured, and to the kitten that was still outside. After some crying sessions with my mother, I realized that no matter what, I was doing a good thing by taking care of one of them.

I just want to say thank you to Lisa Studley at the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter for helping me out with all of this, and calming me down when I worried too much.

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***

For about a week, we had no name for the little black cat that was lodging in our downstairs bathroom. My mom swore she thought the kitten was a boy, so for a while we were calling it “he.” It was very shy, and would hide underneath the sink and toilet, and in the corner on the radiator. My family took turns sitting in the bathroom to keep it company. The moment we would leave it, the kitty would start meowing really loudly – it was scared and wanted attention!

It was a tough week. The little thing had fleas, and we couldn’t let it out of the bathroom. After a couple of days, we tried to remove the fleas on our own, sending my father to the ER with kitten bites. OUCH! Luckily he did not need to undergo rabies shots, and he is FINE.

Because of the flea problem, we needed to take the kitten to the vet – North Shore Animal League would not de-flea the kitten for some reason! So, I paid my first bill as a cat mommy – $550! At the vet, we found out that “he” was a SHE! Now to just come up with a name!

Naming the kitten was another problem! I thought she was MINE, but apparently everyone in my family needed a say. For me, naming is important. I want the name to mean something and be filled with symbolism. Apparently that’s silly? We finally agreed on the name Slinky, because she is so cautious and scared, she stretches out her neck and her body to see if everything is safe. The way her neck extends is like a slinky (the toy) and she tends to slink around when she explores. I also liked the name because it was in the same vein as Mushy and Spooky – an homage to our first cats! This entire experience has been making us reminisce about them.

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***

I brought Slinky home with me to Queens after her vet appointment! No longer was she to remain in the tiny downstairs bathroom in Great Neck!

I wanted her to have a companion, though, and was still upset that her sibling couldn’t join her. The vet suggested that it would be best to get a companion as soon as possible so Slinky wouldn’t get used to being a lone cat for too long. She also let us know that adopting a male or female companion cat really didn’t matter – female it would be, as my family and I have a bias towards the more dainty sex of the species.

Bindi! That’s the name of my second kitten. She came from the shelter with the name Amber, but since I felt uncomfortable with a name I had no say in, I decided to change it. My brother, however, refuses to call her anything BUT Amber! Unlike Slinky, she is a tabby cat with orange flecks of fur. On her forehead is an orange dot, similar to an Indian bindi, hence her name. Bindi was found on the side of the road, and brought to a shelter where my parents picked her up for me. She is not like Slinky at all! She is not cautious or scared, and instead of slinking around, she runs and jumps!

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***

I guess this brings us to present day! It has only been a couple of weeks since I’ve had any cats in my apartment, but already it feels like forever! Instead of traveling, taking care of kitties is what takes up my summer days! And it isn’t easy!

Slinky is still coming out of her shell. She only allows me to pet her in certain situations – when she is comfortably seated on her preferred windowsill or on my big comfy chair. She doesn’t like being picked up, but I try anyway!

Bindi, on the other hand, never had a shell to begin with! Not only will she let you hold her and touch her, she is NOT afraid to touch you back, and I have the scratches to prove it! She loves to play, and sometimes that includes grabbing and biting me! Currently her “safe place” is my brother’s room, which leads to her waking him up in the middle of the night, biting his feet!

Introducing the two of my kitties has been tough, and is still a work in progress. Bindi just wants to play, but her methods can be seen as a bit too aggressive. Slinky, though, is rising to the challenge, and when I separate them, she occasionally will meow at me to let her have another go! I bring them together for mealtimes, and have even brought mealtime out from my bedroom and into the common area of the kitchen! That is great progress for Slinky, as she has really been stuck in my room this whole time!

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***

Truffles and TJ (Truffles Junior – Slinky’s brother) have both been TNRed. The day I got Bindi, TJ reappeared – Truffles started bringing him to our deck to get food, as we’ve been feeding Truffles ever since May 8. Even after their capture and return, they still come back daily for their meals!

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I am so glad that I made the decision to get kittens. The responsibility is great, but it feels great too – when I’m not worrying, that is! And each step of progress is such a gift!

Holding Slinky while laying in bed is the best gift in the world!

Holding Slinky while laying in bed is the best gift in the world!

 

Posted: August 4th, 2016
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Ceramics!

Professor Nolen's ArtworkDuring my Fall 2015 semester, I took a Ceramics I course with artist and professor Matthew Nolen. It was a great experience, and something I looked forward to every week. The last time I played around with clay was elementary school, can you believe it!? It was a definite challenge, and required patience, planning, and learning new skills – pottery wheel, soft and hard slab creation, coiling, and glazing! I definitely would like to go back to exploring the potential of clay at some point, but for now, here are some of my creations! Read more »

Posted: January 16th, 2016
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We Should All Sit at the Table

Touch in Real Time

“We should all sit at the table,” concludes Holly Hanessian, ceramics artist, in regards to creators in all mediums – painters, sculptors, potters, designers, and so on. I took her final statement to mean something different, bigger. Read more »

Posted: October 27th, 2015
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Drawing 151 – Introduction to College Drawing

Final Presentation for Drawing 151

This semester was dedicated to completing my double major in History and Art History – only 3 classes. I had all the room in the world to take exciting electives, and I decided I wanted to start getting into art again, having taken a large hiatus since my AP Studio Art days. Professor Nancy Cohen was a great professor, and I think I progressed a lot in these few months!!! Read more »

Posted: June 1st, 2015
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Queens College Fashion Collection: 1830s White Satin Evening Dress

For the Spring 2015 semester, I took a course with the Family, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences Department called Fashion Archiving. Queens College, CUNY, has an immense historic fashion collection, and in this new course, students learn how to research and handle old materials. After being assigned an 1830s White Satin Evening Dress, I was required to pinpoint the exact period of the dress, place it in its historical and cultural moment, and finally give a small presentation to a live audience. I did research both at home and at the FIT Special Collections Library, looking through 19th century publications and fashion plates. Enjoy!

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Posted: May 31st, 2015
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The Lady of Shalott: The Women Behind the Art

 

Lady of ShalottLady of Shalott by Elizabeth Siddal (1853)
Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt (1886-1905)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s 1832 poem below

“Four gray walls, and four gray towers / Overlook a space of flowers, / And the silent isle imbowers / The Lady of Shalott.” Throughout the decades of the 19th century, artist after artist focused on this somber edifice, depicting the world of the Lady of Shalott within its bounds. The publishing of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Lady of Shalott” in 1832 sparked this widespread appeal in 19th century England. Focusing on different scenes, and emphasizing specific symbols, artists such as Gabriel Dante Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, and William Holman Hunt strove to interpret the role of woman through the figure of the Lady. These assorted understandings of women’s roles illuminates women’s place at the time in which the piece of art was created, as well as how the individual artist personally related to the subject. Tennyson, writing in the 1830s, was grappling with the foundation of the Cult of Domesticity; Elizabeth Siddal, drawing in the 1850s, dealt personally with the issues of women and society; and William Holman Hunt, finishing his final painting on the subject in 1905, depicts the anxiety felt at the turn of the century towards the new, modern woman. The legend of the Lady of Shalott and its myriad interpretations throughout the 19th century serve as a lens in which the reader and viewer can witness the progression of women’s roles in society. Read more »

Posted: May 30th, 2015
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Women, Fashion, and the Middle Ages: 1300-1500

Women, Fashion, and the Middle AgesImages from the Luttrell Psalter (14th Century) and the Queen Mary Psalter (14th Century)

Long, draping, formless garments give way to tighter, more form fitting women’s dress. The changing of silhouette in women’s fashion is immediately apparent when looking at a timeline of the middle ages. For centuries the style remained relatively similar, but as soon as the 14th century hits, drastic changes can be witnessed. Read more »

Posted: May 27th, 2015
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Paul Gauguin and Maurice Denis: Ia Orana Maria vs. Springtime

Paul Gauguin and Maurice Denis: Ia Orana Maria vs. SpringtimeGauguin’s Ia Orana Maria (1891) —– Denis’ Springtime (1894-99)

“Art is an abstraction; derive this abstraction from nature while dreaming before it, but think more of creating than of the actual result.” – Paul Gauguin1

“[Great art is] universal triumph of the imagination of the aesthetes over crude imitation; triumph of the emotion of the Beautiful over the naturalist deceit.” –Maurice Denis2 Read more »

Posted: May 13th, 2015
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Jueves as Poetry

Jueves - La Oreja de Van Gogh

In discussing the definition of poetry Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy, the three editors of the Norton Anthology of Poetry, begin by acknowledging that “poetry began as song and continues as song; it is usually best appreciated when spoken or sung…”[1] Taking this classification into consideration, it must follow that the lyrics to contemporary songs must qualify as poetry, and as such, deserve placement into an anthology of poetry. If this is true, why are there no such selections in the Norton? The lyrics to the Spanish song Jueves by the music group La Oreja de Van Gogh perfectly fits the preliminary description of poetry, and goes even further. In addition to its musicality, the lyrics exemplify various other poetic rhetoric devices, which enhance the meaning and quality of the piece.

Musicality in poetry and song isn’t simply conveyed by background and external rhythms and melody, offered by instrumental and vocal accompaniment. Onomatopoeia, assonance, and rhyme are all part of what makes a poem sing. Jueves features a perfect example of onomatopoeia: the word tartamudeando. The translation of this Spanish word is “stuttering,” and the sound of the word, which includes assonance, recreates the act of stammering. In the chorus, there is a repetition of an “s” sound which mimics “respiro” or “I breath.” Each line is filled with assonance, or the repetition of vowel sounds within words. Whereas alliteration might aid in creating a steady rhythm, assonance helps in creating an ephemeral and airy quality in the poem. Using the first line of the song as an example, the repetition of the Spanish “a” generates the flowing nature and tone of the piece: Si fuera más guapa y un poco más lista. Though there is no set rhyme scheme or formula within this poem, many lines tend to rhyme with preceding ones. Several of the rhyming examples follow the assonance model mentioned above, and use the Spanish “a” to create the rhymes and half-rhymes: lista/revista, imaginas/bonita/cristal, suspiras/vista. Other vowel rhymes are also present, specifically the Spanish “o”: yo/silencio, labios/tartamudeando, diciendo/menos/directo.

Through the stresses placed on the words by the Spanish language, further emphasized by the poetic devices mentioned in the previous paragraph, Jueves follows a strict meter that enhances its musicality. The lyrics follow amphibrach tetrameter and dimeter. Each verse contains four lines, the first three in tetrameter, and the last in dimeter. The only exception to the rule is the last verse in which each line is tetrameter, the purpose of which will be mentioned later. Amphibrach is when a stressed syllable is surrounded by two unstressed syllables.[2] Taking the first line as an example, the scansion is as follows:

 

Si fuera mas guapa y un poco mas lista

 

It is important to note that in spoken Spanish, various vowel sounds mesh together into one, a form of elision. In the above example, “y” and “un” would be pronounced as one syllable. The following is an example of one of the amphibrach dimeter lines:

 

Va y viene el silencio

 

This strict adherence to a meter puts this song in the ranks of the great poems in the Norton Anthology and others.

In addition to musicality, poetry features various other qualities that separate it from everyday speech: tropes and schemes. One of the tropes that elevates Jueves beyond being an ordinary song is the simile “Y así pasan los días… Como las golondrinas del poema de Bécquer.” In translation, these two lines compare the passage of days to the passage of swallows in Bécquer’s poems. Not only is this line a perfect example of simile, but it is also filled with imagery and allusion, specifically to the Spanish poet’s The Black Swallows Will Return and various other poems in which this graceful bird is featured. Acknowledgment of the poetry’s past, specifically that of Spanish poetry, brings Jueves into this historical narrative and trend.

The trope of personification is also used to create vivid imagery within the piece, and is specifically utilized to bring to life parts of the body. Despiertan mis labios signifies the awakening of the speaker’s lips as she begins to pronounce the name of the man she loves, while el último soplo de mi corazón speaks to the last breath of the speaker’s heart as she hears her significant other say, “I love you.”

La Oreja de Van Gogh also uses the scheme of anaphora to emphasize and highlight meaning. In the first verse, the repetition of “si fuera” or “if I were” stresses the insecurity of the speaker: if only I were more beautiful, if only I were more intelligent, if only I were special, if only I were from the pages of a magazine! The verb tense utilized in this repetition is the subjunctive, one that is used when expressing things that are not a certainty. The ambiguity imbued by this verb tense underscores the speaker’s belief that she isn’t any of the things she listed – beautiful, intelligent, and so on.

Perhaps the most important characteristic of poetry is its storytelling. “After all, [poetry] encourages us to embrace… the unexpected, the never-thought-of (and also… the universal, the shared…).”[3] It is this specific feature in Jueves that makes it perfect for a poetry anthology. Upon first reading, the lyrics seem to be speaking about the universal feeling of love, insecurity, and anticipation. The words tell a story of a girl who sees a boy she thinks is handsome, the time it takes for the girl to inch closer to him, and finally, their ultimate meeting. There are certain phrases within the lyrics that hint to this amorous interpretation of the text. With the phrase “piensas una chica más tonta/y me quiero morir [you think I’m a stupid girl, and I want to die],” the reader can understand the speaker’s embarrassment that comes along with being in love with someone new. When the two finally meet and talk on “un día especial este once de marzo [a special day, March 11],” it is obvious to the reader that this moment is extremely significant to the girl. Lastly, the personified line of “el último soplo de mi corazón” can be read as the released tension as the couple kisses and professes their love for one another. All of these lines elicit a universal feeling, one that is felt by most everyone when they first fall in love. So, in the words of the editors of the Norton Anthology, Jueves “encourages us to embrace… the universal.”

Along with the universal message sung through the lyrics of this piece, there is an “unexpected” reading of the words, one that is only possible with the addition of outside information. March 11, on the Spanish calendar, is a somber day in history. In 2004, a terrorist attack was conducted against civilian commuters in Madrid. More than 190 people were killed that morning. With this extra information, the song and lyrics take a much more serious tone. The location of the action, a train, is no longer unimportant. The setting locates the characters’ positions on this fateful day. The lyrics describing how the girl wishes that she would die because of her feeling of embarrassment, now take a more important role as a foreshadowing tool. The beautiful last line is no longer read as a release of nervous and sexual tension, but can almost be read literally – that is, if hearts did breathe. The speaker in the song is no longer living after this attack, and this was indeed the last breath of her heart. It is also here, as mentioned above, where La Oreja de Van Gogh changes up the meter. If the structure continued, this last line would have been amphibrach dimeter, but instead, it remained in tetrameter. By changing this structure, the lyricist catches the reader and listener off guard. It is obvious that something has changed and something is different than before. This change alerts the reader and listener to the meaning of the line: the sudden and unexpected end of life.

The popular Spanish song Jueves by the music group La Oreja de Van Gogh encompasses every element of poetry mentioned as important by the editors of the Norton Anthology. In story and message, it is both universal as well as unexpected. In structure, it exhibits musicality through rhythm and rhyme. The words create strong, vivid imagery, and are impeccably placed to convey the song’s double meaning. Structure, musicality, and word choice symbiotically work together to enhance and deliver an important and meaningful story.

[1] “Preface to the Shorter Fifth Edition.” In The Norton Anthology of Poetry, edited by Margaret W. Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy, Xli. Shorter 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2005.

[2] Merriam-Webster Online, s.v. “Amphibrach,” accessed October 12, 2014.

[3] Norton Anthology

Posted: March 11th, 2015
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Spanish Symphonic Music

Close Your Eyes and Listen

How do you experience music in a concert setting? Do you watch the bows of the violins slide up and down? Do you watch the conductor frantically wave his arms in the air? Do you watch the soloist of the concerto piece? Or… do you close your eyes and just listen? Read more »

Posted: February 1st, 2015
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Junior Year, Fall Semester – Reflection

In Front Of Andy Warhol Wallpaper

At the close of 2014, I feel very accomplished with what I have undertaken for my third collegiate year. I came into my fall semester with a lot on my plate – 18 credits, History Club President, CERRU Fellow, MOTNY Docent, and whatever else I would pick up along the way. I won’t lie, there were many times in the past several months during which I stressed out a bit, perhaps more than was necessary, but overall, looking back, I realize that everything progressed smoothly. Read more »

Posted: January 18th, 2015
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A Comparison Between Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell

Kline and Motherwell

Franz Kline – Nijinsky
Robert Motherwell – Elegy to the Spanish Republic

Abstract Expressionism, largely an American artistic movement, boasts many artists of varying aesthetics who, ultimately, champion the use of non-representational forms in their artwork, along with other unique and trend-setting artistic practices. Franz Kline’s Nijinsky (1950) and Robert Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic (1950) may differ in their application of color, shape, artistic process, and subject matter, but both works of art exemplify the category of Abstract Expressionism, as they champion non-representation and formalist themes.

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Posted: December 22nd, 2014
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Marina’s Marvels – Crochet and Knit Creations

319339_3209471050436_1593967734_nCustom Crocheted Creations copy

Crocheting has been a hobby of mine for a little over a year now. I picked up the skill when I was in Spain during the summer of 2012. My great-aunt taught me how to crochet, and I learned all the stitches and patterns in Spanish. When I came back to the States, I had to do a bit of re-learning so that I could understand English-language patterns and explanations!

I have been knitting since I was much younger, having been taught by my grandmother. Unfortunately, I can only knit scarves, though I have recently tried some other stitches. Read more »

Posted: December 13th, 2014
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Goya’s Corral de Locos – A Tiny Painting with Tons of Meaning

A paper written for my Art History Research Methods course, and my accompanying presentation
On both assignments, paper and presentation, I received an A+

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes is one of the most renowned Spanish painters in art history alongside masters such as El Greco, Velazquez, Dalí, and Picasso. With a long career as a court painter and part of the Spanish Academy, this great artist displays a wide variety of styles and subjects ranging from Tapestry Cartoons and Court Portraits to graphic images of the Spanish War for Independence and his series of Black Paintings. His most notable works, often grandiose in scale and heavily commissioned or part of an extensive print series, fall into strict epoch and stylistic categorizations such as these. Those works that don’t fit snuggly under a proper heading are often left unacknowledged, or at most marginalized as unimportant, unspectacular, or occasional.[1][2] Corral de Locos, translated in English as Yard of the Lunatics, is one such painting that is not part of a larger heading, but the difficulty in labeling or classifying this image as belonging to a specific style or genre in Goya’s overall repertoire does not limit the amount of analysis that is to be had.

Goya’s Corral de Locos contains a lot of information in its modest 43.8 by 32.7 centimeter[3] borders. Painted between 1793 and 1794, it belongs to a group of paintings, all painted around the same size on tinplate, which is now referred to as the Cabinet Pictures.[4] The artist depicts a scene of violence occurring in an open courtyard of an insane asylum. Various characters grace the painted stage: aggressive brawlers, quiet onlookers, and isolated individuals. But what appears to be at first just a depiction of unruly members of society, Corral de Locos reveals even more. Social history and autobiographical methods can both be used to glean meaning from the painting’s surface. The differing and perhaps contradictory interpretations imposed on Corral de Locos make one thing clear: Goya’s portrayal of the underbelly of society is most importantly seen as a timely snapshot of when it was painted. Read more »

Posted: December 13th, 2014
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Jeff Koons: A Retrospective

Laying like a sculpture

You’re so narcissistic! What’s your name, Jeff Koons?

For its closing exhibition, the Whitney Museum of American Art has dedicated almost its entire space to feature the work of Jeff Koons, an artist who has been called “one of the most important, influential, popular, and controversial artists of the postwar era” (Whitney Museum). Though I have never studied him previously, I did have some prior knowledge about Koons from visiting a gallery in Chelsea back during my History of Western Art II course in freshman year. I remember not being impressed by much with the exception of his large, modern take on the pre-historic Venus of Willendorf. This piece had caught my attention because I had learned about the original stone sculpture in AP Art History, and I didn’t realize it still had such an impact in the art world.

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Posted: August 23rd, 2014
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