CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College/Professor Bernstein
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Category — BChiu

What is “Art?”

What is art? Is it a series of lines drawn strategically to create an image, or is it a series of lines randomly scrawled across a blank canvas? Is it a blatant image, or is it abstract? Is it a story of a person, or is it a story of emotion? The Museum of Modern Art gave me a glimpse of the wide variety of art that artists have to offer the world.

Upon entering, I saw a glass container holding soil and a few green plants. As simple as this structure was, I thought it resembled the essence of art in nature. I thought it was a clever piece of art right at the entrance of the MoMa, a small glimpse of the art that was to be presented once I passed the ticket holders and walked toward the galleries waiting for my viewing.

When I walked upstairs, I encountered a colorful array of empty food containers and household products stacked and splayed across a wall of white; this was George Maciunas’ “One Year.” It amazed me to see every item Maciunas ate or drank behind this glass display. Maciunas was the leader of the fluxus movement, where artists and music composers all over the world focused on anti-art and anti-music to subvert previous art traditions. The fluxus movement focused on each artist’s individuality and gave each artist the freedom to express his or her art in ways that were untraditional in the past. Maciunas took me by surprise by using organized food containers to use as art materials rather than the typical paint and blank canvas. It was a collage all on its own: Maciunas stacked his food item packages according to the product itself and made the heights vary in such a way that the peaks appeared to resemble the skyscrapers of New York City.

As I walked through the MoMa, I entered the Abstract Expressionism display subtitled “The Big Picture.” These artists aimed to create art that would “reassert the highest ideals of humankind” (MoMa). I noticed many of these abstract works resembled pain and destruction to refer to the war and Holocaust that occurred in the years prior to the movement. Jackson Pollock’s “The Flame” immediately caught my eye as I entered the gallery; the dark colors of black and red emanated fire and the black claw-like strokes resembled victims’ hands outstretched for help during the Holocaust. The oil paint on the fiberboard canvas seemed the painting texture the way flames have texture.

As I continued into the next room, I saw huge canvases with scarce strokes of lines. Barnett Newman was an artist who made paintings that “downplayed traceable signs of the artist’s hand” (MoMa). One particular work called “The Voice” featured a white canvas with an off-white line going down the right side of the painting. As I approached the painting to look at the strokes, it appeared as if the painting was a photograph, for it was completely smooth and I could not tell that it had been painted onto the canvas. All of Newman’s paintings varied in the colors used and the locations of these vertical lines. I noticed that in some of these paintings, the vertical lines were painted first before the “ground,” or the space behind the vertical lines, and others had the vertical lines painted after the ground was painted.

The next room was abundant in paintings with what appeared to consist of random splashes of paint on canvases. Jackson Pollock proved to be one of the most profound abstract expressionists in his time. He used paint pouring and drip techniques to cover his canvases in a completely abstract way. Although Pollock’s “Full Fathom Five” was one of his first pieces using drip technique, it appeared to be the most complex; I had to speculate the painting to see the nails and keys and cigarettes embedded underneath the oil paints. Incorporating these items into his work gave the painting more texture and dimension overall. His other works consisted of the characteristic drip technique he was known for and also varied in colors. Most of his works had the colors black and white in it to show extreme contrasts in the paintings. After seeing his characteristic drip technique paintings, I came across “Echo: Number 25, 1951.” It was completely different from his other paintings and seemed to have an abstract pattern to it. Using only black and beige colors, he created feather-like strokes on his canvas and elegant swirls. It gave the painting a whimsical, feminine touch, which was a vast difference compared to his other works.

As I walked into a room full of sculptures, I came across David Smith’s “Cubi X.” I really enjoyed looking at this structure because I could see the silhouette of a person walking mid-stride. There is a bit of irony with Smith’s use of stainless steel, a metal that does not easily bend; this structure depicts a person in motion, perhaps even dancing, and motion requires fluidity and movement, something that metal is not meant to do. I admire all of these artists, especially the abstract artists due to their vast creativity and vision in creating works of art that require viewers to look beyond what is displayed in front of them; I thoroughly enjoyed delving into my imagination to see what images I could fathom from these pieces of art.

December 8, 2010   No Comments

Who He Was


For generations, Buddhism was taught on my mother’s side; my grandmother was brought up under a mother who was a very religious Buddhist. My great-grandmother made sure to raise her eight children, especially my grandmother and great uncle, to be kind to everyone around them, to not discriminate, to give back to the community, and to have good morals. Within her household, she would burn incense and pray to Buddha. She taught her children to help others in need and never ask for anything in return; she would set examples by helping fellow neighbors with their groceries and babysitting their children and having my great-grandfather help with mechanical repairs in their homes.

When she passed away, during her burial, my grandmother and my great uncle swore they witnessed a white light shoot out from the ground and into the sky. My great uncle had a revelation and knew that this sign was a calling to pursue Buddhism. Immediately, he gave up his career as a successful veterinarian and started attending meetings with other Buddhists and their master.

He attended weekly meetings and started to pray, and soon he was a devout Buddhist. He stopped spending money in excess and increased his volunteering time at his local hospital and soup kitchens. Every time he passed by a non-profit organization that was fundraising, such as the Salvation Army or the American Cancer Society, he donated whatever money he had in his wallet. He was taught that giving and expecting nothing in return was the way his life should be, for his mother taught him that that was the correct path to being useful in the world. He met many other followers of Buddha and networked all over the world. He followed his master wherever he went to teach Buddhism. Soon, he became almost like his master’s shadow because he gained so much knowledge.

Over time, he grew in rank and knowledge and was elected and won title of master and took over the position of teaching his followers the way of Buddhism. It became my great uncle’s mission in life to spread the religion and values of Buddhism. He sacrificed his social life, and kept his wife and children at home while he travelled the world to enlighten people about Buddhism. He sincerely believes his association with Buddhism has helped his family: previous business investments have prospered and his followers all have good fortune and comfortable lives.

When he travels he does not preach for people to convert to Buddhism, but instead stresses the importance of doing good for others; Buddhists believe that giving to others will result in good returns. He encourages people to become vegetarian because he believes that animals who are killed for their meat have done nothing wrong to cause their deaths and that it is sinful to deprive anything of its life. He chose to become vegetarian and now avoids meat, as well as garlic and scallion in the belief that they have contents that make people’s tempers irritable.

My great uncle believed that the light coming from his mother’s grave was the turning point in his life because he completely changed the direction he was going in. As a veterinarian, he still felt as if he did not serve great enough purpose, and wanted a chance to help people on a greater scale than merely taking care of their pets. He would volunteer at places such as hospitals and soup kitchens, but he wanted to do more. By converting to Buddhism, he believes his life is more meaningful, and he wishes to spread not just the religion of Buddhism, but the act of giving and helping out other people not for the sake of good fortune but for the sake of being selfless and philanthropic. He has taught families to be strict on teaching their children the values of respect to others and treating others the way they want to be treated in order for them to grow up to be good people.

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December 7, 2010   5 Comments

Sara Krulwich

“No women, children or dogs allowed on the field,” read the press passes for the University of Michigan in 1968. A year later, dogs are permitted onto the field, but what about women? Sara Krulwich takes a risk as the first woman photographer in the photo department at The Michigan Daily and steps foot onto the football field. Threatened to be dragged off the field, she stands her ground, becoming the first woman to stay on the field during a football game at the University of Michigan.

Sara Krulwich has truly changed the protocol at the University of Michigan after her public display as a woman photographer on the football field. Ten years later, she visits the university and sees that there are “women cheerleaders, women in the band, women in the security force, women physical therapists and a woman photographer who happened to be the photo editor at The Michigan Daily” (NY Times).

Krulwich faced hardships finding jobs at local newspapers, but she landed a position at the New York Times as the first female photographer working there. Thirty years later, she has found her niche in working for the New York Times as a photographer for the theater department. Taking unique photographs that in the past were prohibited from being displayed to the public, Krulwich has opened another door to the possibilities for photographers, male or female. For three years she struggled to obtain permission to take photographs at operas and theaters due to the fact that these photographs could not be seen until publication; however, she managed to pull through and now is one of the main photographers capturing the essence of so many works on Broadway.

December 5, 2010   No Comments

The Scottsboro Boys

In the early 1900s, racism was a looming issue in the South. African Americans were segregated from the Whites and were treated very differently. As a controversial issue in the past and still sometimes in the present, many people have been reluctant to bring up the issue in such a public way. Sure, there are textbooks that have sections we must read in history class that talk about the Jim Crow laws and segregation in the 1900s, but these little excerpts from the textbooks do not capture the issue of racism the way The Scottsboro Boys did. Some people find racism a difficult topic to talk about, but Susan Stroman’s directing made it both informative and enjoyable to viewers.

Ironically enough, for a time period when Whites dominated the South, there was only one White male, John Cullum in the cast who played the roles of interlocutor and the judge and governor of Alabama. The rest of the cast was all African American men and a single African American woman. The musical starts off with a minstrel show form of entertainment, with the bright, blinking lights and the characters dancing around ready to show the audience a good time. John Cullum reminds the viewers that this is a serious subject matter they are about to dive into and tells the audience to brace themselves for a journey back to the time when nine Black men were accused of raping two white women on a Southern Railway line going from Chattanooga to Memphis, Tennessee.

Throughout the play, Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, played by Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon, present a comic relief that is much needed considering the topic that is presented in the musical. With exaggerated accents and unnatural waddling around the stage, these characters present a type of irony for viewers; played by two African American men, these White characters are presented more as clowns than authoritative figures.

Ken Billington, the man behind the lighting design, did a fantastic job with manipulating different colored lights to parallel the mood of each scene. From the sunset shades during the “Commencing in Chattanooga” musical number, to the special bar filter to replicate the light coming in from barred windows in a jail cell, Billington made every scene credible and realistic. The use of simple every-day objects such as chairs and wooden planks were a clever addition to staying thrifty while encouraging the audience to expand their imagination to visualize the train cars, the jail cell, and the judge’s podium, just to name a few.

What I found most fascinating was the Lady that was in the background of the entire musical. From the start of the musical, we see a woman sitting down as the sounds of cars pass by and think she is a mere prop to what is to come later in the musical. However, she remains in every scene, silently watching and standing around, making expressions of shock, sadness, and sympathy for these nine men. Stroman did an excellent job tying her into the story at the very end with the diary written by one of the Scottsboro Boys. At the end of the musical, Stroman reveals to us that the Lady is actually Rosa Parks, inspired by the history written in that diary to stand up to the White bus driver who tells her to move to the back of the bus. The cast and the people responsible for making the musical such a success deserves high praise for both entertaining and informing the audience of the past in the 1930s.

November 29, 2010   No Comments

Black Friday!

It’s 12:00AM and I am setting my alarm for 5:20AM the same day. I lie in bed anticipating the alarm on my cell phone to ring.

Hours go by and I am still unable to fall asleep. I am too excited for shopping the day after Thanksgiving: Black Friday!

There is that one day in the 365 days of a year that people all over the country anticipate: Black Friday. After stuffing their faces with turkey, stuffing, corn, pasta, and all other kinds of food eaten during Thanksgiving, they wait for the remaining hours of Thanksgiving Day to pass so Black Friday can come around. Many of us wake up at crazy hours just to commute to the nearest shopping area for the best bargains, and some of us do not sleep at all. However, where did the term “Black Friday” come about?

Apparently, the term Black Friday came from Philadelphia in 1966, and was the term many people used to describe the traffic that occurred after Thanksgiving Day. In 1975 other states began using the term to describe the period where stores would make profits from people rushing to beat the Christmas shopping crowd, a term also known as “in the black.”

Amazingly enough, despite the recession America has experienced in these past years, people (myself included) still go out of their way to race to the malls to get the best bargain, whether it’s clothes or electronics, or gifts for relatives and friends. I wonder if it’s a tradition that will spread to other countries later on…

November 27, 2010   1 Comment

Collage Project – Man’s Effect on Nature

New York City streets are decorated with countless cigarette butts, scraps of litter, and smoke spewing out of trucks and cars’ mufflers. I always contemplated how the world used to appear before cigarettes, paper, automobiles, and other human inventions were made. The world used to be bountiful in green landscapes, vibrantly colored flowers, and full of all kinds of animals. I chose this topic to display aspects of nature alone, untouched by humans, and transition to today’s world when humans leave behind traces of their existence. Many passersby in the city streets ignore the trash that is carelessly thrown onto the ground, as if the trash will disintegrate and will not be existent in the days that follow.

I decided to capture the beauty of nature as well as its counterparts, the humans’ traces left behind in nature, by taking photographs and recording videos to put into the collage. I used the audio from the videos to demonstrate the difference between the peaceful sounds of nature versus the raucous sounds that are human-made. By using photography, I was able to use my eyes to see what I found suitable to use as examples of untouched nature and of humans’ traces. If I were to cut out images from magazines or other forms of paper media, I would have very limited options to display what I thought would be a good comparison of the before and after of humans in nature. Creating an 8×11 inch page collage is extremely restrictive because I can only put a number of items and pictures on the page before running out of space. Using a video to display various pictures and using audio makes the project more realistic because you can both view and hear nature as well as the effects of humans on nature.

As great as creating a video for my collage is, a video is also limiting in the sense that you can only see and hear what it has to offer. Looking back on my project now, I can see that if I had created a paper collage instead, I could have incorporated pieces of nature as well as scraps of litter found on the streets; for the nature portion, I could have picked up leaves and pasted them on the page, as well as flowers or feathers found on the floor, and for the humans’ effects portion of the page I could have picked up cigarette butts and paper litter and cans to put on the page. Using actual objects found on the streets and parks of New York City emphasize the fact that we New Yorkers are the cause of all the trash laying around in the city, while using a video can be viewed almost anywhere and not personalize the fact that humans polluting the environment is an issue in our particular city. Adding in the audio presented many challenges for me since I had to extract them from the videos I recorded and insert them where I found suitable; I also had to make them transition well so they would not sound choppy and out of place.

Starting digitally presented me with a wide array of options on how and where to capture my images to use in the video collage. I was able to choose which particular flower or scenery I wished to include, and I was able to carry my camera around and snap a picture whenever I saw it was necessary. Using the VadoCam, I walked around in the city and was able to capture sounds of birds chirping and trucks’ noises to incorporate into my collage. Using my camera, the VadoCam, and my laptop really broadened my creativity because I could edit my video however I wanted and incorporate sounds where I wanted them to be.


November 22, 2010   No Comments

Belinda Chiu/”Make Your Mark”


People have different ways of expressing themselves in the form of art; some people paint, others sketch, and in my neighborhood Elmhurst, people do graffiti. I decided to choose the theme of “Make Your Mark” and took photographs of different forms of graffiti in Elmhurst and in Woodside.

To begin with, I made sure my camera was in the setting of “Day Light” since these photographs were taken on sunny days. I put the flash on automatic so my camera would automatically detect when it needed more light or when it did not. On my way to the train station, I passed by the park near my house and came across a tree with the carving: “CARLOS ♥’S MARIE.” The carvings seemed to have been etched out using a carving knife, for every letter was crudely cut and the round letters such as the C and the O were jagged. I specifically chose all of my photographs of graffiti as the center of the picture so it would be the focal point. There are numerous Chinese supermarkets in my neighborhood, all of which do not open until after eight o’clock, and in the span of dusk to opening time, people take advantage of spraying graffiti on the metal gates. I stood at one end of the gate and took an angled shot of the stark white graffiti spray on the dull gray gate.

For this project, I roamed my neighborhood to find the generic graffiti on the walls of apartments and stores, and took shots of as many graffiti art as I could. I was particularly entranced by a form of graffiti art next to a club Nuves on Queens Boulevard, which features a person driving a blue car with smoke trailing behind him, and a large panther crouching down glaring at any bystander that passes by. A few years ago, this graffiti used to be a bland image featuring only dull, dark colors, but now it is enhanced with bright purples, blues, and pinks to attract the attention of passersby. I changed the setting of my camera’s color to “vivid” to capture the vibrant colors of the graffiti.

I recalled passing graffiti numerous when I was driven to Woodside; a particular form of graffiti was always drawn under the overpasses of trains. These graffitis were always painted by “Two Famous Artists,” artists that I have always admired. They always sign their names and label their art, and at this location they named their artwork, *WOODSIDE on the Move.* Over the years, their works have been graffitied over by other people, which made it difficult for me to take quality photographs. They use the entire canvas of the walls under the overpass, which presented difficulties for me to take photographs of the entire canvas. I stood at one end of the photograph of the horizon and the baseball teams and did my best to capture their entire works. There was a photograph I took of a series of colorful boxes which were shadowed by trees; I tried to reduce the shadows from the tree by increasing the exposure, saturation, and the shadow of the photograph using iPhoto, and decreasing the contrast of the picture. The photograph of the flowers were also shadowed by the tree leaves, so I used iPhoto again to increase the saturation and highlights, and decrease the exposure and contrast to capture the colors of the flowers that I saw in person. The ocean painting was extremely large, and I was unable to capture the entire picture even from standing across the street, and one of the beams obstructed my view of the painting.

Performing this project was extremely enlightening for me because I noticed I overlook the details of the neighborhood I have lived in my entire life. This project helped me be more observant to my surroundings and learn to make use of the myriad settings my camera has to offer and make use of adjustments I can do with iPhoto.

November 13, 2010   1 Comment

Photoshoot in Central Park

“Go stand over there,” Steven ordered, “no wait, go a little more to the side, I need more light otherwise the picture’s going to come out bad.”

“You’re embarrassing me by making me do all these random poses in front of passersby!” I argued with him.

I met up with my friend, Steven, to take photographs for the collage project due in a couple of weeks. Since I wanted to take many pictures of nature as well as the humans’ effect on nature, I decided to use his expert photography skills to capture every image I wanted portrayed in the collage.

Knowing him since high school, Steven was always fascinated with photography and photoshopping photographs he took or finding images online and enhancing them to the potential he wanted them to be. I always thought it was a mere hobby of his until I saw how he was performing today. He carried around his messenger bag filled with his alternate lenses for his camera.

Carefully angling himself to the direction of the image he wanted to capture, he would walk around a couple of inches here and there until he took the perfect photograph. As a deal for coming out of his house, I was required to have my photographs taken as well… At first it was really uncomfortable considering we were in public and he would stop me literally every couple of feet, but I grew to realize that this was his way of perfecting his photographing skills.

As the sun went down, I sat down with him on a park bench as he showed off his photographs to me, and I was impressed. His constant switching of camera lenses paid off, as well as arranging me and the setting of Central Park in accordance with the amount of lighting the sun provided; his past photoshoots with his friends definitely paid off in his photography skills.

November 13, 2010   No Comments

ICP: The Mexican Suitcase

The first thing that I see when I walk into the International Center of Photography is a blown-up picture of an opened case: the cover of the case is divided into many boxes with different descriptions in respect to their negative’s cubbyhole. These negatives were recovered in Mexico City; in 2007, the International Center of Photography received three of these cases filled with the negatives of photographs taken of the Spanish Civil War. These photographs were taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Fred Stein, and David Seymour (also known as Chim). The Mexican Suitcase exhibit featured various photographs of soldiers, the warfront, various places such as churches and factories, as well as magazine and newspaper excerpts.

From 1936 to 1939, Robert Capa captured the events of the Spanish Civil War alongside Gerda Taro and David Seymour. Before fleeing from Europe to America in 1939, Capa left thousands of negatives in Paris, which ended up in Mexico City more than half a century later. Most of Capa’s photographs on display featured the warfront and the backs of soldiers. He was a daring photographer who was unafraid of following soldiers straight into the midst of war. Many photographs, including “Republican soldiers storming forward in jumps, Rio Segre, Aragon front, near Fraga, Spain,” “Republican machine gunner behind stones, Rio Segre, Aragon front, near Fraga, Spain” and “Republican soldiers bring in the wounded, Rio Segre, Aragon front, Fraga, Spain” feature soldiers with their back turned to his camera, focusing on the war in front of them. I was intrigued by the photograph with a soldier carrying another soldier over his shoulder because Capa strategically took the photograph with them as the main focus, right in the center of the frame. They are cast in shadow from the sun behind them and are the darkest points in the picture.

Many of Gerda Taro’s photographs are in the setting of a forest in Navaserrada Pass, Segovia front in Spain. Some photographs feature soldiers ready for battle, such as “Republican soliders crouching, Navacerrada pass, Segovia front, Spain” and others show soldiers at ease, such as “Republican soldiers standing by tank, Navaserrada Pass, Segovia front, Spain.” Other photographs showed the brutality of war, such as three particular photographs with wounded soldiers on stretchers. These pictures seemed almost posed since the soldiers carrying the wounded looked directly into the camera when she took the photographs.

Chim’s photographs were extremely diverse, varying from the “Siege of Alcazar Toledo,” a photograph taken in a textile factory in Sabadell in 1936, to photographs of church exteriors and architectural details in the Basque region. Chim’s photographs of the architectural details of the churches and the Butron Castle really stood out to me in the sense that he took many photographs in varying positions and angles relative to the buildings.

I came across a glass showcase which contained the actual case with the negative films still inside of it. Much smaller than the enlarged picture on the wall at the front entrance, it was interesting to see the minute details of the case and the fact that you can see that aging has occurred to the case.

Going downstairs to the exhibit Cuba in Revolution, there were a series of photographs that stood out to me of the same person, Che Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary. At first glance, I wondered why every single photograph was of him strategically propped up to take a picture for the camera. As I read the captions for each photograph, they spoke of the same fact: this was a photograph of the corpse of Che Guevara. In a couple of the photographs, Guevara is the main focus, while in others, there are numerous soldiers around him. One photograph showed a soldier holding a picture of Guevara next to his body.

Passing through these two exhibits, I felt as if I was witness to many of these events, as a soldier in the war, as a bystander to the culture around me in Spain, and as a sponge taking in all of the history around me in these photographs. I learned so much from these photographs and noted many of the photographers’ techniques when taking the picture, considering the direction of light, the focal point of the picture, and choosing the subjects to take pictures of.

November 6, 2010   No Comments

“I was mad clutch!”

“Oh my god, I have such horrible aim… I didn’t make ONE ball in. Sorry we sucked because of me,” I told my friend.

“What are you talking about?? I was mad clutch!” he replied.

…What did he just say? I thought to myself. I had never heard such a term before, and my only knowledge of the word clutch was that it was a verb meaning to grasp onto or to hold.

I took out my handy laptop and went on

“Definition 1: to perform under pressure.. Definition 2: Great, Essential, and Potent rolled into a single word.” I pondered at the thought of what my friend meant.

Throughout my entire childhood, I was exposed to all these slang terms but never got the hang of using them or really knowing what the terms meant, other than the word “mad” replacing the word “very” and things like that. This word, “clutch” was no different to all the other alien terms I have heard when I was in middle and high school. I always surrounded myself with people who didn’t speak in slang, so I learned everything in proper English.

So I asked my other friend today, “What does it mean to be clutch??” and he replied:

” Say there’s a basketball game, and the score is tied and there are 2 seconds left. Some guy scores and wins game. That is ‘clutch.'”

Even now, I still don’t know what the actual meaning is even with my friend’s help, but I guess it depends on where you come from and who you’re exposed to do you learn the meanings behind these words…

November 2, 2010   No Comments