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


It seems that some of the biggest changes in history have started with a single step. We find ourselves surrounded by reminders of past uprisings, small events with such large circumstances–we hear so much of Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks, but why do we hear nothing of Sara Krulwich?

Her efforts seem to be one of the main stepping stones towards equality in the world of photography. Just a few words of hers, despite the chagrin of her peers, had the power to change the way that people viewed photography–and who was able to be behind the camera. Tags that stated the prohibition of her presence on the football field meant little to her–what was a piece of paper doing in between her and her goals  anyway, besides hiding the fears of years so blissfully misinformed? She disregarded the rules that seemed so set in stone by those deemed “in control,” during a time that seemed built of equally irrevocable guidelines–but it did nothing but the fires of her trend-setting ways.

Ms. Krulwich told us of her struggles on and off the field, and it brought to mind thoughts of the struggle many of us often face everyday. She fought for her independence, for her ability to actively participate in the art that she loved–what do we fight for? Why is it that we are becoming known in this day and age as the group of Americans that are so willing to allow government and the norms of society to walk all over our ideas, and desires for the future?

While listening to Sara Krulwich, I realized that the answer lies not in the group–not its power, not its faults–but in the individual. The answer lies in the individual ability to stand up for one’s beliefs, an action that often seems to eventually lead to the changing of the world. Look at Sara Krulwich. Look at what she’s done.

How different are we?

December 15, 2010   1 Comment

A Little Bit of Home

It’s amazing how taking a wrong turn can lead you to just the right place.

I was walking back from class, and I decided to take a detour; I was becoming sick of my 3rd Avenue routine. So, instead of turning left while walking crosstown, I kept going–and I saw some of the most wonderful things. I ended up in Greenwich Village, adorned with Christmas lights and infused with the wafting scent of pine. So of course, instead of heading to the dorms, I kept going away from them–and I found myself becoming even more immersed in the beauty of the area. It amazed me that it took me so many months to get to the West Side of the City, especially when this was what was waiting for me! Had I known, Broadway wouldn’t have been my exploration boundary.

I looked at my phone sadly, noticing that it was getting late, and started to turn South towards the dorm and the inevitable studying of the books within it–but then the best surprise of the night was upon me. I had never seen Washington Square before, and here it was, with a huge Christmas tree, glowing with the light of what seemed to be endless strands of decorations.

The whole night reminded me of home.

It all reminded me of the endless pine trees surrounding my dead-end street, of the countless decorations that my parents put up every year, of the lone lamppost in front of my house, the last house on the block, that always looks just a little magical when it snows.

Still, even though I am miles and days away from my small town of Manorville where the Island’s forks split, I was able to find a little bit of home in this grand city that now has an even larger part of my heart.

December 14, 2010   1 Comment

The MOMA: Gravity—and Expectations—Defied

If anything, I was skeptical. Modern art had always been a concept that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic to know more about. Still, I knew it wasn’t worth it to complain—so there I was.

The entrance restored my faith in our adventure. Within steps of the ropes was an exhibit that attracted the attention of dozens: two seamless pieces of what seemed to be film reel, moving back and forth suspended between two fans, adorned the rise before the stairs.  The work literally seemed to defy gravity, and the lighting made it possible for the clear, taut ropes keeping the reel aloft to be made invisible. Feeling slightly less wary of what I was to be subjected to, I ventured onward—and began to see fascinating things all around. One of the first pieces to catch my attention was Richard Pousette-Dart’s “Fugue #2.” At a first glance, it made no sense to me; it just looked like incoherent swirls and shapes. However, upon looking at the title, I began to realize a pattern. Knowing nothing of art, I drew upon my knowledge of music: a fugue is a piece of music that is written using the same main theme repeated and layered over itself. With that in mind, the painting seemed to be using the same concept; the more I looked at it, the more I could see repetition of swirl patterns, of subtle layering. It seemed as though the artist picked such a title to shroud the piece in further mystery than it offered alone, yet still offering insight into the intent that would otherwise be overlooked. Not all of the art was quite so discernable, though. Works such as Hans Hofmann’s “Memorie in Aeternum” caused me endless consternation—despite the piece’s beautiful colors, defined shapes and soft background, I could not determine the true meaning behind the piece (and the title certainly didn’t help me).

It seems that, although much modern art is quite prestigious—and rightfully so—some slip through the cracks…and onto the walls. Despite the fact that the definition of art isn’t incredibly subjective, I just couldn’t bring myself to accept some of the things that were exhibited. One example was the construction paper area. Sure, some of the works were intricate and beautiful, but I must admit that I almost laughed a little when I saw “Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance).” I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my mom had kept something that I had made in kindergarten that looked just like that…

Still, as I shook my head and walked away, I realized that I was never far from a piece of art that shocked me with its skill and conceptual insight. Like the loops of film that were floating on the newly visible cables in the midday’s natural light, even though I was sometimes able to see through the myth of the glory of the MOMA, my expectations (like gravity) were defied—and in one of the most beautiful ways possible.

December 9, 2010   No Comments

Who She Is–Gwen D’Amico

Who She Is

Music seems to be a passion that is able to wind effortlessly into the lives—and life goals—of many. Professor Gwen D’Amico, a music professor at 4 of the CUNY Schools (Brooklyn, City, Lehman, and Baruch), is no exception.

Music was a large part of Professor D’Amico’s life at a very young age. Her parents were avid lovers of music, and they always tried to surround her with all forms of it—they brought her to her first opera at the age of six. Although she wasn’t in love with the classical forms at that age, she began to take voice lessons at only eight years old. From that point on, music was always a part of her life. Music also stayed with her long into college. Although she did nothing professional with opera singing in the long term, she tried her luck with various productions—she even did a wedding gig once in a while. Still, despite her departure from this career path, it has remained a resounding passion within her.

After majoring in music business in a small college in Pennsylvania, Professor D’Amico pursued a job in the music industry, at Mercury Records. Here, she became closer than ever to realizing what her next goal would be. Her work with music contracts peaked her interest in the legal aspect of the music industry, and she decided that she wanted to become an entertainment lawyer. She wanted to make a difference within the industry—to make it even better than she already expected it to be. However, after a while, she decided that although she loved the field, she didn’t want to become a lawyer—the industry was often more corrupt than fun during the 1970s and 1980s. “It was—and still is—a very male specific industry. I didn’t notice at first that all of the administrators were old men with cigars, and all the secretaries were matching blondes,” she told me. Professor D’Amico started to see the distortion of the industry, and even though she admitted that “no commerce is pure,” she saw that the music industry just wasn’t about the music anymore. “Once you begin to sell any art, it is no longer about the art—sadly, it’s all about the money,” she told me. She soon moved on from contract work to radio promotion in an effort to free herself from the discrimination. Unfortunately, due to the beginning of the common occurrences of payola scandals—the paying off of DJs and other radio personnel for advertising privileges–and other frauds in the radio industry, this career move threw her even deeper into the heart of it all. While dealing with all of these legal issues, Professor D’Amico began to completely lose faith in the music industry. To her, not only was it becoming too focused on profit, she also noticed that there seemed to be a general trend towards loss of individuality amongst musicians. She worried about the future of the industry as well. She was afraid that soon, the record companies were going to have to find new ways to make a profit, especially now that the Internet was becoming such a prominent option for music promotion, sales, and more. Also, now that she saw the introduction of individual performers promoting and recording themselves, she worried that sound quality would be sacrificed in the long run, in exchange for the use of programs that made the availability of music that much easier. It was at this point that she decided to leave the music industry entirely. Soon after, though, she moved to teaching, which she realized was a main interest of hers, even though it was “late in the game.”

“When I was a little kid, whenever I was sick my dad—he was a college professor–would take me to his classes with him. It was the coolest thing ever! Of course, I never even considered teaching until I had already become deeply entrenched in a completely different career. But, here I am!” She said as she looked around.

Where do you expect yourself to be in the next decade? What about after that? After you’ve reached those goals you so longed to reach—what will happen then? Sometimes, it takes some misdirection to decide upon a true life goal. For Professor D’Amico, even though she thought she knew exactly what she wanted from the industry for more than 10 years, there were other options out there that she wanted to explore. Still, she is just one example of what one can accomplish—all across the board—with just some effort and passion.

(Music Used:

“Baba O’Riley” by The Who; “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who; “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd.)

December 9, 2010   2 Comments

What has music done for you?


How does music make you feel?

It’s hardly an easy–if even possible–question to answer. Still, we all listen to music. We each have different tastes for different voices, genres, styles—but have you ever noticed the way that individual music affects the individual? How that one split second in a song that you haven’t heard in years can bring you back to an event, an emotion? Many are deeply affected by the power of music, and in countless ways.

This revelation can’t be missed, even on these very streets. Performers that I have seen in the subways, in the parks, all attracted—or didn’t attract—an audience. The main audiences that I noticed were, surprisingly, children. More often than not, I noticed that many adults felt uncomfortable openly watching street performers—but children were an entirely different story. More often than not, I saw children staring in wonder at performers, as their parents looked the other way. One such example was the picture from the Delancey Street Station near the dorms. However, every once in a while, I lucked out and saw adults looking along with their kids—such as the picture of the mother and child at Union Square. Street performers aren’t the only avenue through which music calls out, though. Another example is the magic of the concert.

I myself have attended at least a dozen concerts in past years, but one of the first times that I really noticed the effect of music on the people around me was at my third Anberlin concert, this past October. Here, I noticed that even hours before the concert was to begin, there was an electrified feeling to the air–I was not the only one fidgeting frantically, awaiting a night of high energy and amazing music. Once in the concert hall, though, one was able to see the direst human response to music: all around me, people were moving as one, waving hands, pumping fists—no matter what it was, people were recognizing their own emotion, and reacting in turn as those around them did (and, amazingly, in response to only a few instruments and a singer).

One definition of music is “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” It’s truly astounding how just a simple organization of sound in time can evoke such a powerful response. There seems to be nothing else that brings people together to the extent that music does—or as universally.

Be it adults jumping in unison in crowded halls, or children leaning out of strollers and laps for a better glimpse of guitars and kazoos, the power of music is quite irrefutable. It is even supported by science: MRIs and other scans have proven that the brain not only becomes more active while listening to music, but its most emotion-related parts, such as the cingulated cortex, are incredibly active?

What does this tell us? Undeniably, whether we recognize it or not, we are all affected, by individuals and as a people, by the power of music.

What has music done for you?

November 23, 2010   2 Comments

Under the Strobe Lights: “The Scottsboro Boys” offers truth amidst triviality

Are horrifying circumstances less horrifying when told to the tune of flighty banjos and predictable bass lines? It seems that in the musical The Scottsboro Boys, music and lyric writers John Kander and Fred Ebb were trying to find out just how much contradiction and unsettling revelation an audience can take willingly—and it seems that they’ve hit it right on the mark.

The show’s controversial subject matter may have been enough for some. Starting with the utilization of the minstrel show form (one of the most racist forms of theatre in American history), The Scottsboro Boys begins a true tale of brutal injustice with a thoroughly sardonic glimpse into the continual presence of racism, even as the events that the minstrel group portrays are portrayed in past-tense. The group of men creating this show-within-a-show—not incidentally consisting of all African-Americans, only led by a stereotypical “Southern Gentleman” who continually interrupts their heartfelt connection with the story—brings a relevance that makes the audience wonder just how removed the characters—as well as they themselves–are from the injustice that this story narrates.

Despite the condescending yells for interruptive dance routines and joyous distraction, the men continue on to weave a tale in which the audience finds it harder and harder to separate delight from disgust—a thoroughly unsettling concept, if it weren’t for the efforts of the composers to throw in “happy” chords and joyous percussion at every turn. Pieces such as “Electric Chair” are prime examples of this: in this piece, a fright-stricken boy is carried through the terrors of the chair that he will likely meet, as the tempo increases and the musicians frantically play their assigned major-mode parts. The juxtaposition of fear and joy doesn’t end here, though, as the once comically White jail-guards—played by other members of the Black minstrel group, of course—prance around in a bizarre display of joy over the imminent demise of the guilty-until-proven-innocent inmates, surrounded by dead bodies who re-animate just in time to re-enact their moment of truth under the strobe lights.

And as if this fantastic display of fear and exultation just wasn’t enough, we are often reminded that this story is not just a story: although assuredly less musical, this happened. Seventy-some-odd years ago, these nine boys underwent the abhorrent events of this garishly spectacular musical—a revelation that is not easy to dismiss, especially as the musical reaches its finale. Here, the audience is subjected to possibly the most unsettling part of the writers’ insight: here, all African-American members of the cast are portrayed using blackface makeup, a thoroughly grotesque representation that makes clear that even at the time that their show-within-a-show was being done, these actors were far from escaping the oppression that they so detested. Still, as the lights flash and the music continues to crescendo, the audience finds itself witnessing a total about-face in the show’s direction, and assignment of power—a tool that allows the musical to become more than just a revelation for an audience to undergo: The Scottsboro Boys, with all its glamour and terror, pizzazz and disgust, becomes an example with which the audience feels obliged to do more than just reflect upon…

No small feat for some banjos, building-block chairs, and a small group of men wiping some paint off of their faces.

November 21, 2010   No Comments

Life Cycles: Birth, Growth, and “The Orphaned Anythings”


Sometimes, we get lost in the flurry of life. Things are born, things happen in between, and then things are gone. But how often is this all thought about as a whole? People either dwell on the past, enjoy the present, or plan relentlessly for the future. In my street photography project, I attempted to chronicle life cycles with a universal approach: noticing all parts of life working together as time passes us by.

At first, my perspective absorbed only architecture—new construction, decaying buildings—and I began to see the sheer contrast in the design of New York City itself. Writer and composer Stephen Christian wrote of decaying buildings as “The orphaned anythings,” a troop of disregarded beings taking up space and watching time pass by without so much as an appreciative glance—but I made a point of looking for the ghosts of fervor in cracking walls and chipping paint. Sometimes, I was able to see these “orphaned anythings” so close to the newer, shiny glass and metal buildings that they were touching corner bricks, narrating the stories of technological advancement and architectural preservation–but then, I started to look at the bigger picture in an even bigger way: I began to look at the cycles of human life and activity.

Never before had I noticed such a beautiful melding of youth and age on these city streets, side-by-side going about various businesses without so much as a second glance. What seemed most intriguing, though, was how similar the facial expressions of all of these people could be. Nearly identical instances of joy, sorrow, curiosity, and pain could be seen on the faces of these people that I’d never even seen before, these people that I will likely never see again—much less learn their names, the reasons for their expressions. My favorite picture out of my twelve is “Old Man Enjoying the Sun:” as I crossed Allen Street on my daily walk home from class, I watched as a man closed his eyes and stopped for a brief moment, gratefully taking in the Sun’s last few rays as the wind picked up. I fumbled desperately for my camera, at first not even thinking that a shot of this man would work so well for my street photography project, and I snapped a quick shot over my shoulder as he turned and went on with his life up First Avenue. When I looked down at my camera to see if I had actually gotten the shot (after enduring a long list of failed “inconspicuous-angles”), I paused in shock: even after the moment had passed, this man had a look of hope on his face that was unmistakable. Looking back as he walked slowly uptown, I saw that frozen expression in my mind’s eye on the faces of two children skipping under a father’s arms to class that very morning, on the face of the man that washes the same section of sidewalk every morning on Third Avenue, on the faces of a soon-to-be-known band’s youngest techies running back and forth with amps and cases too big for them at The Bowery Electric. It was at this very moment that I noticed how powerful these life cycles are—especially as they work side-by-side to produce the remarkably full atmosphere of New York City.

As I walked slowly home in a chilling wind only offset by the warmth of shop entrances, I endeavored to capture these life cycles side-by-side in the same pictures, finding decay over growth, growth after decay. It started off with fences and plants, graffiti with traffic cones,

But then the camera became more than just a simple lens: it became a small avenue into the passing of time—and how though nothing may escape it in the end, we find ourselves in a beautiful world of conglomerate means towards that very end, an end that will never see the life cycles of New York City—or any place for that matter—reach it as a whole.

November 18, 2010   1 Comment

Different Ends of the Same Island


It’s funny how different aspects of a fad or trend are so differently received in different places. The same clothes, same music, same label can mean one thing in one place, and mean the complete opposite just an hour’s drive away. Just one example of this stark contrast happened to me this very weekend—and not even in the city.

I went home for the weekend to help my parents around the house. To help out with all of the extra work—there’s lots of heavy lifting involved when it comes to horses—my mom asked her friend’s son Joe to come over. As we moved wood chips, branches and other ridiculously heavy things, we ended up talking about music. He tried to peg my musical interest: “You’re definitely a country girl, aren’t you?”

“That’s what my mom would want you to think,” I snorted as I carried a saddle past him. He tried to justify his guess, by saying that the plaid shirts and the boots that I always wore seemed to fit perfectly into a Garth Brooks video—not to mention the whole “horse thing,” he joked.

Sure, his assumptions seemed to make sense to me—but now that I live in the city, his strategy seemed a bit off. Here, everyone’s perspective seems so different than from Manorville, the little farm/forest town that I hail from. The exact same outfit that I was wearing as Joe dubbed me “country” jokingly got me labeled a “hipster” in my dorm’s common room. What’s the difference? How is it that the East End of Long Island has such a different opinion of various trends, when compared to Manhattan? And most of the people that called me “hipster” weren’t even from Manhattan—so even on different ends of the same island, perception can alter greatly (even about the small things, like flannel and boots).

November 16, 2010   No Comments

Fleeting Glimpses

Fred Stein, “Gerda Taro and Robert Capa on the terrace of Café du Dôme in Montparnasse, Paris”

Stepping out of the rain into the International Center of Photography, I welcomed the light and warmth of the building’s entrance and main lobby area. It was when I had caught my breath and started to look up, however, that the true power of the Mexican Suitcase exhibit hit me.

The exhibit consisted of a collection of long lost negatives that were taken during the Spanish Civil War. The three photographers whose works were in the Suitcase (Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Chim—real name David Seymour) were all closely involved in documenting the wonders and horrors of this time of turmoil in world history. As I followed the gentle flow of people passing along the length of the carefully crafted exhibit, I found myself surrounded by not only pictures of the actual events of war, but also the documentation—the permanent depiction—of common people who lived during this time: people who breathed the electrified air of discordant opinion. Seeing the faces, the expressions of these people—not just images of soldiers, political leaders—gave new perspective. Often, when we reflect upon history, we envision only those directly involved with wars, battles and conflicts—But what of the rest of the world?

ICP reinforced this revelation by exhibiting different media representations of the conflict: one such example was the French news magazine Regards, which used many of the lost pictures from the “Mexican Suitcase” to actively chronicle the events of the Spanish Civil War. These glimpses, however fleeting, into not only the major events but also the more individualized repercussions of this conflict, gave much more of a platform on which to appreciate both the events themselves as well as the view that the photographers Capa, Taro, and Chim were able to capture in such a turmoil-ridden time.

One aspect of the exhibition that successfully heightened both the emotion and relevance of the photographs specifically, as opposed to what major events they captured, was the curator’s choice to explain the relationship between photographers Capa and Taro. Although they worked together, that was not the extent of their relationship—they were romantically involved as well. Looking at their photography—and seeing pictures of them, smiling and interacting–one can imagine how they saw the images they captured through both a literal and metaphorical lens, as well as the joys (and tragedies) of their relationship. They witnessed these events happening, and we can see the emotion in the faces of those in the photographs–but the exhibit’s efforts to give some background on the photographers’ work allows viewers a tiny, yet significant glimpse into someone else’s reflection on the events they viewed as they were happening: a dramatic revelation that makes our response today, however removed from these events we may be, that much more powerful.

I walked into the International Center of Photography with a dry, simple notion of what happened during some turmoil at some time in history. However, after seeing through the eyes of those who tried so hard to capture the truth, the real events that affected real people—people I’ll never meet, some I’ll never even know the names of—I left with a newfound appreciation of the gravity of the events that affected the people in and around the Spanish Civil War—something that no textbook could ever hope to achieve.

November 11, 2010   No Comments

We Owe This To Ourselves

As I waited on the street outside Irving Plaza, slowly cooling cup of too-bitter coffee in numb hands, I counted down the minutes until the beginning of the possible best night of my life. To my right were a dozen or so people (I always arrive at least 2 hours early for this band, no exceptions), and to my left the line continued around the next two corners of the block, with all kinds of people: young, old, punk, hipster, “normal,” all waiting for the same thing: Anberlin. The daylight drained away with the minutes, my eagerness making every moment feel as though at a complete standstill—but then the doors opened.

Entirely too excited to give up a second row spot for coat check, I went right in to Irving Plaza’s main room for the second time in my life. This time, though, I felt more than just anticipation. I’d seen Anberlin twice before already, but that only made me more in awe of what I was about to witness. Soon to be before me were the very people that influenced the decisions I’ve begun to make for my future. One of the main composers of the band, Stephen Christian, has his own side project, has written a book, and has formed a charity, called Faceless International, that he and the rest of the band actually go all over the world to contribute to. What these few people have done (and all in under a decade, too), is nearly exactly what I hope to accomplish with my life—but mainly, it’s the sheer power of their music, the fact that they can bring so many different people together and feel a common emotion, that I wish to one day achieve myself.

We all knew what was about to happen as the last opening act filed off: the lights would slowly fade up, as Anberlin’s bassist played a deep continuo in the background, so deep that we could not hear it but only feel it in our bodies—and everyone around me, from all backgrounds, all nations, all with different stories, pasts, futures…we all raised our hands as one, as the stage lights flashed and the first chords struck our very souls.

November 2, 2010   1 Comment