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

Abstract MoMA

What is art? That was the question we were given when we had arrived at the Museum on Modern Art. Despite spending a couple of hours walking around, observing some of the most famous art works in the world, I left still not knowing exactly what art was. Art is subjective and that is the only answer to that question. What I find to be a masterpiece, you may find to be a piece of trash. And vice versa. Depending on each person, people find different meanings in different pieces of work. It is what you make of each painting or sculpture or drawing that makes it art.

MoMA introduced me to a wide variety of abstract art that I have to admit, seemed very odd to me. A white wall painted over and over in different colors? That’s art? A few swirly lines? That’s a masterpiece? I think I remember myself doing that same work when I was about five years old. Those are the types of thoughts that went through my mind when seeing works such as those. Barnett Newman was a main artist at the museum that had a whole room dedicated to his work. I couldn’t believe that his art goes for thousands of dollars. But that goes to show that art doesn’t have a definite meaning. I should not be criticizing someone who has major works in a museum such as the MoMA. Just because I don’t find his work to be powerful or interesting, that doesn’t mean others don’t either. Obviously people do if Newman is such an acclaimed and successful artist.

Although I have to admit that I wasn’t so amazed by a few of the paintings and other works of art that we saw at the MoMA, most of the pieces we saw I do consider to be art. One of my favorite artists I saw in the exhibit was Jackson Pollock. One thing I especially admired about his work is that his paintings have texture. He had depth in his art and it popped colors out at you that really grab your attention. “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.” -
As you can see from this quote by Jackson Pollock, he simply let’s his paint have a life of its own. He doesn’t think too much about what he is drawing. He just DOES IT! It is like he makes abstract art in an abstract manner of doing so. Nothing is organized or prepared. It is simply spontaneous and that is what makes his work so unique.

I think one of the greatest things about abstract art is that you can make the painting or sculpture what you want it to be. There is no concrete picture being portrayed so the viewer can observe the piece in his or her own way. For example, at one point in the museum Matthew and I walked by a sculpture that appeared to resemble some type of animal. Matt said it was a fish. I said it was a grasshopper. It turns out the name of the sculpture was “Australia.” Abstract art brings opinion upon itself and that is okay. We should all be able to find different images and meanings behind what we see.

I am definitely glad that we were able to go to the MoMA because it without a doubt opened up my eyes to the various forms of art in the world. And whether I agree with some or not, it is still good to know the variety behind the different styles.

December 8, 2010   No Comments

Who She Was: A Cleansing of One’s Self


**It was the request of my interviewee that I keep their name anonymous in the writing of this project. To keep their identity private, I will use the name, Jackie Ross, in place of her real name. That is neither her first nor last name.**

Alcohol and drugs are often things that play a major role in the self-destruction of one’s life. The ability to overcome those types of addictions is amazing in itself and it is a feat that it is often extremely difficult for people to do. For my podcast, I will tell the story of my Aunt Jackie and how for a major part of her life she battled an addiction of both drugs and alcohol, but how that addiction has made her to be a better person today. This is a somewhat sensitive subject to her though, being that I have lived in the same house with her for eighteen years and even I had never heard about her story until this assignment was given.

Growing up as one of ten children in an Irish family, Jackie Ross didn’t always connect well with her family. She wasn’t one of the youngest in the family. She wasn’t one of the oldest. She was the fifth child born and often did her own thing in the household. She said how she was the quiet one in the family and at times was very insecure about herself. This led to her drinking at an early age. She had her first beer at the age of twelve and she immediately liked the feeling it gave her. She said that alcohol helped her cope with her insecurities with school and home. Around the age of fourteen, she started going to bars every weekend. The drinking age was eighteen back then. Her drinking habits got to a point where her life revolved around alcohol. She didn’t want to do anything if it meant she couldn’t drink. She compared her life to my life in Macaulay. She said that if her class ever went to Broadway shows back then, she wouldn’t have gone…because that would require her to be sober, and she didn’t see that as a possibility.

After a few years of drinking, my Aunt Jackie came upon drugs and became hooked on it. She said that cocaine eventually went hand in hand with alcohol. If she did one without the other, she wouldn’t feel complete. It was around this time when she started getting massive hangovers every morning. She said she would throw up a few times a week and be sick basically all the time. Jackie knew it was a problem but couldn’t find it in herself to quit. She tried multiple times to stop but it wouldn’t work. It just made her crave drugs and alcohol more.

It wasn’t until Jackie Ross went to Brooklyn College to get her Master’s Degree in 1987 where she eventually made a transformation. She was failing in school and had gotten fired from her part-time job at a corner grocery store. She came to a realization that she literally could not go on living like this anymore. She felt if she stuck with her drinking and drug abuse, she would end up dying at a very early age. That sudden self-actualization and I guess you can say, “epiphany”, changed her life. Jackie went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for several months afterward and eventually moved past her struggles and overcame them. She noticed a difference in her life right away. She became an overall happier person once she quit and became better for it. She ended up getting her Master’s degree and landing a good job at Baruch College where she remains today.

It was in 1989 where she finally quit all drugs and alcohol and hasn’t consumed any since. Jackie Ross described herself as being a selfish person at the earlier stages in her life. She almost lost her family and herself. But with her recovery and experiences, she says she is a better person for having gone through it all. And although she admits that these are mistakes in her life she is not happy about, she does not regret them. It has made her a much stronger person, both physically and mentally. She says how today she loves the feeling of not being tempted in the slightest to drink alcohol and she has her past to thank for that. My Aunt Jackie ended the interview humorously by saying how now when she goes out to restaurants and travels, she doesn’t have to buy $15 drinks that are being served. Plus, it keeps the calories away!

December 7, 2010   3 Comments

Sara Krulwich: “Don’t Be Afraid to Get Close”

During Sara Krulwich’s visit, she talked about many things in her life and how they shaped what she became today. From her experience on the Michigan Wolverine football field until today, photography and the way she approached it has been a key factor in her success throughout her career. Towards the end of her talk in our class, she started giving out advice on how to shoot pictures well and how it is most affective. One point she really seemed to emphasize on was to not be afraid to get close to our subject. When you get up close and personal to what you are trying to shoot, the overall quality and meaning of the photo comes to life. Every step closer to the subject makes a difference, and that was what her career thrived on.

Sara Krulwich was never worried about getting too close or too personal with what she wanted to capture. She didn’t conform to the “rules” or the “norm” of society. She did what she wanted to do, in a non-arrogant way though. She simply wanted what was fair and she stood up for that. In 1968, she became the first woman photographer for “The Michigan Daily.” Her freshmen year, while working for the paper, she did the unthinkable. She went on to a man’s ground! She stepped foot on to a football field!! She did what only men….and dogs were allowed to do and it was controversial. She was there to take picture of the game for the paper but security was refusing to let her remain on the field. But since Krulwich is very courageous and determined person, she matched the security guards relentlessness. She refused to get off the field ans said they would have to physically remove her. That moment changed her life. She ended up being able to stay, take picture, and change the face of photography forever. It was that moment where she realized she wanted to be a photojournalist.

Sara Krulwich was never shaken by the animosity she faced being a female photographer. Her fearlessness is what got her into photography and helped her remain there. “Don’t be afraid to get close” is what really stuck with me from her talk to us because you can tell how real that statement was and how she is saying that out of experience. It is that dedication that makes her one of the top female photographers of her field, and our time.

December 6, 2010   No Comments

Heartfelt Humor

From the moment the actors stepped on stage, you could just tell that this was going to be a very upbeat, fast paced show. With the quirky music and excitement of the actors, it made you feel like they were about to put on a show about something they loved and couldn’t wait to show us. They made it seem like what they were performing was something good in history when it really wasn’t. The historical context behind “The Scottsboro Boys” is still evident throughout the musical though, but the way that it is presented to us works in a way that I feel is effective in that it never gets too serious or emotional for us to bear. They keep the context of the story easy going and add humor to the situation so that we are able to understand the significance behind it, but also strike a balance with humor to keep us entertained. I think it was very risky to do what John Kander and Fred Ebb did by making this story such a humorous, up tempo musical, being that many people might not take so lightly to such a serious topic. But personally, I appreciated the humor behind it because I think it makes everything easier for us to watch as viewers, and I also think humor is the the one thing in life that keeps us sane in life.

Obviously the story of the Scottsboro boys is not a laughing matter, but I think adding humor to the show and making it upbeat helps us to both view the historical meaning and also helps us be able to move past it. I don’t think anyone who actually see’s this show will walk out of the Lyceum Theatre and say, “Wow, segregation was funny back then.” The story is still powerful. You can still see the pain, emotion, and struggles the nine boys went through with that long ordeal. But when presented in a way where you can laugh every now and then, it eases the tension in watching it. There was one comment in the show that I thought to be especially funny. When thinking that they were getting released from prison and talking about what they were going to do once they got out, one of the boys responded by saying that he was going to buy two white girls to spend the night with to see what all this fuss was about. I don’t view that humor as taking anything away from the pain that they went through. I also don’t see that as “making fun” of the historical context. I see that as bringing humor to a serious topic which is something that we need sometimes. Sometimes we need to realize that this is a musical and not an actual re-enactment. If it were, it wouldn’t be so popular and bearable to watch. I think we need that humor to brighten a very dark situation.

One of my favorite aspects of the show itself was the use of characters. I loved how the white police officers and white girls were played by black, male actors. So much of the shows humor came from the scenes where these “white” people were shown. The over-exaggerated walking and talking was great satire in my opinion and kept me laughing with everything they did. It was a great way to poke fun at how ignorant they were. I think if the white people in the show were played by white people, it would cause more tension with everything and the whole show would be less humorous. Perhaps it would be too real and that would take away from the aim and purpose of the musical itself.

Another aspect of the show I thought was really well done was the use of chairs to put together different scenery. Just a few chairs were used for numerous settings. Different arrangements set the scene of a railroad car, a prison, a court room, a bus and probably a few other scenes that I can’t quite remember off hand. Simple props made the show what it was and it shows how effective something can be by just keeping things simple. One of my favorite scenes was the one where the boys are handcuffed on the bus and one of them attacks the driver and gets shot by the other officer. The use of lighting, music, and acting made this scene really dramatic. The stage lighting went red, the music got slower, and the actors started moving in slow motion. I thought that was a well done scene that used many different aspects of theater into making an effective show.

In conclusion, I’d like to finish off with how I started. There will probably always be people who take offense to a musical like this where humor and passion are used to tell a serious story. But in my opinion, that humor and passion is exactly what we need as viewers to understand the historical context and learn from it. I think that making a serious show that did a closer re-enactment to the history with more racism and prejudice wouldn’t serve us anything. We would just see it and be shocked. I think that would cause animosity and tension and that is not something we need. We need to be able to learn from the past and move forward…and I think humor was the right way to go in this case.

November 30, 2010   No Comments

Thanksgiving Culture

The other day as I was on facebook–probably wasting time when I should have been doing homework– I noticed a picture my friend posted on her page. It was a picture of “arroz con dulce” and as the caption she wrote, “starting thanksgiving early =)”. She is Puerto Rican and I knew she ate Spanish food a lot, but I was unaware this was her traditional Thanksgiving dinner. When I think of an ideal Thanksgiving supper, I think of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, and apple pie. That is just the way I grew up and how I got to know Thanksgiving. Out of curiosity, I asked her if this was really what she had on Thanksgiving because I was simply unaware. She responded by saying yes and that this is a traditional Thanksgiving meal for many Spanish families. I don’t know if you would say I was ignorant for not knowing that there were different Thanksgiving meals for different cultures, but I was definitely surprised when I found that out. I know every culture has their own cultural foods, but I sort of thought that Thanksgiving was a national meal in which everyone ate turkey.

I was pretty amused by the whole idea of eating another Thanksgiving dinner. I tried picturing me and my family having that type of meal for Thanksgiving and it made me laugh…not because of the food itself, simply just because it is a completely different culture than the one I’m used to so anything else would feel weird and artificial to me. I actually love this cultural variety that we have in New York though. From house to house, there is uniqueness that we don’t get to see anywhere else, and being able to see these cultures and learn about them is rewarding in many ways.

November 23, 2010   No Comments

Sleeping in NYC


For my collage theme, I decided to do it on the city that doesn’t sleep, New York City. Personally, I am ALWAYS tired and that’s pretty much the reason I decided to do this topic. Most days going to school in the morning, I sleep on the train. Most days going home, I sleep on the train. Some days when I get home, I take a nap. I love sleep. You can almost say that my hobby is sleeping and I know I’m not the only one. I always see other people sleeping on trains, on buses, even on the street. You can walk through Madison Square Park right outside of school and see people laying in the grass sleeping or on benches sleeping. Everyone sleeps, obviously, but I want to capture the moments that don’t just happen between the hours 11pm-8am in our own cozy beds. I wanted to be able to capture the moments where people just happen to fall asleep, whether it be on the floor of a living room, or a bench in a park. I want to point out all the naps and rests that the city that “doesn’t sleep” has to offer. In New York City, people make “beds” out of whatever is available to them when they are tired.

In my collage, you will see various places where people sleep. You’ll see people laying in bed, sitting on a couch, sitting on a park bench, laying on the grass, sitting in a train, standing in a train, DRIVING, and then some people just snoozing on the floor. There isn’t a place where people don’t sleep. For example, my dad’s favorite place to sleep is on the toilet bowl…but I didn’t find it appropriate to include a picture of that for obvious reasons. And I know the reason that New York City is labeled as the city that never sleeps. There is always something going on in the city regardless of what time it is. I just thought it would be fun to take pictures of people who aren’t always part of that “middle of the night”, lively atmosphere…and I was right. It was both fun and funny. As creepy as it sounds, I really enjoyed taking picture of people sleeping. Sure, I would get an occasional weird look from people, but for the most part people didn’t even notice. It was funny being able to be right in front of someone’s face without them knowing and the humor in it helped me get it done.

I wasn’t sure the style in which I was going to do my collage at first. I knew I couldn’t do a video because a video of people sleeping would put everyone watching to sleep! But I also didn’t want to do the old fashioned cut and paste on to paper. I didn’t find any excitement in that…especially with what the topic of my project was. I ended up figuring out how to work iPhoto and used that to help me make my collage with music and all. I had control of everything and I am pleased with the way it came out.

November 23, 2010   No Comments

City and Mountain: My Two Homes


The theme for my street photography project was unplanned for the most part. I started out by carrying my digital camera around with me whenever I went out and basically just took pictures of anything I thought was worth taking a picture of. I didn’t have an idea in mind, but simply capturing some images was the first part. When I found out that our topic didn’t need to be constricted to just city streets, more ideas came to me. My mom, who takes pictures of anyone and anything, gave me tips on how to take pictures by dividing the image into sections before taking a photo. So this year when I went to Alaska for a summer trip, I used those techniques to take good photographs. Since I knew I had good photographs from Alaska and good photographs from the city, I decided to combine the two topics into one.

Brooklyn is my home. I was born and raised here and love it. There’s no place I’d rather live than in New York. But for the past two years I’ve gone to Alaska on a wilderness trip and I have been the leader of the trip, working with the project coordinator/founder to organize everything. Over this time, I have grown to love the wilderness. Being in the city all the time, I love being able to get away from it all with the beautiful views and experiences nature has to offer. From these experiences, I now want to own a summer home in Alaska in the future and have already started talking to the project founder about taking over his house in Alaska when he decides to sell it. I’ve adapted so well to the culture change and I feel like Alaska is a home to me because of my comfort level there. With all that being said, this was the inspiration behind my joint topic. Brooklyn IS my home but Alaska gives me a homely feeling. I wanted to join these two places to show who I am and the environment I am surrounded by.

New York is known for its constant movement and liveliness. Alaska is known for its scenic views and snowy mountains. You would think that taking photographs of views would be easier in the wilderness because all it is is nature, no real liveliness. But that wasn’t the case for me. I had most of my trouble taking the photographs in Alaska. One image that was especially difficult to capture was the image titled, “Eagle at Ease.” Being on the water and moving, it was hard to get close to the eagle without startling it. I had to be very silent while taking my camera out and then I had to focus the camera on the eagle while still maintaining the background shot. It took me a few tries before I was finally able to capture the image successfully.

Aside from the challenging or un-challenging aspects of taking these photographs, I also had some luck. For example, the image titled, “The Sky is Falling” was simply fortunate timing for me. After sleeping on a mountain, I woke up to clouds and fog covering over the mountain tops that were next to us. I basically stumbled upon it. There was nothing difficult about it, just luck. Another lucky photograph I captured was “The Speed of Light.” I took this photo while trying to capture any images I could of street photography around my neighborhood before I had a set topic. I was walking around taking pictures of cars, street signs, stores, etc. While taking a picture of traffic moving along my street, a taxi cab happened to have drove past my camera as I was shooting the picture. What came out was a stream of light that I thought worked well and looked good. To me, it captures the idea that the city is constantly moving at a pace we can’t keep up with, and that the lights of the city holds the power that dominates the city, as shown in my photograph, “Night Light from Brooklyn.” At night time, lights from all over (cars, buildings, street lights) fill the city with color and energy, which make the city what it is.

The two different focuses in my street photography project are completely different yet they each possess their own significance and splendor. These photographs aren’t just pictures to me. They hold meaning too…which may be why I decided on these certain photos to display.

I did not use any photo shop for any of the photos because I tried to keep the images just as they were when I shot them and didn’t want to alter their appearance.

November 16, 2010   1 Comment

ICP: Cuba in Revolution

Cuba in Revolution explores everyday life in Cuba before and after the Revolution around the 1950s. This exhibit showed life during a time of turmoil in Cuba and captures the images, faces, and emotions that we don’t usually see. These many photographers managed to take shots of many different aspects of Cuba during these times, including economic, political, and social aspects.

This exhibition shows the tremendous influence of photography in recording the revolutionary movement in Cuba. As I passed each image I noticed the progress and the order of the images. At first it seemed as if the state of Cuba was not under political turmoil. There were a series of photos where there are just many kids and men in the streets laughing and smiling in front of the camera. It had a happy, light-heartened feel to it. But as the photos and years progressed, so did the portrayal of violence and misery. The photos became more impoverished and sad looking.. It focuses on showing us the emotions and story behind the everyday people in Cuba, both involved and not involved in the revolution itself. The revolution affected everyone, and many people were dragged into situations that weren’t very suitable for them. For instance, in a glass window at the exhibit,  I saw a newspaper image in which there was an old lady amongst many young men and women, and she was prepared to fight. She looked twice the age of everyone there yet she was being thrown into this mayhem. There was another image of a poor looking boy stuck in the middle of everything. Age didn’t matter. War and violence showed no mercy to anyone. This corrupt time enabled the photographers to capture the affect it had on citizens of all age and size.

The most famous photograph at the Cuban Revolution exhibit as I later found out was the photograph titled, “Heroic Guerrilla”, which showed Che Guevara’s stern brave face. I found it interesting how that is the most famous photo of one of the most influential men in Cuban history… And then right after that picture, there is an entire room dedicated to his death. It went from “heroic” Guevara to “dead” Guevara. To me it embodies the rise and fall of Guevara-Castro and how far one man can fall from grace and lose so much. He went through a certain heroic cycle leading up to his execution and I think that sums up the exhibition itself. The whole exhibition shows this power struggle and the transformation from a solidified nation to one with great chaos.

Overall, I enjoyed my first visit to the ICP exhibit. Cuba in Revolution gave me good insight to not only the revolution itself with the major political figures, but also with the citizens stuck in the middle of everything. These photographs help capture their story and misery in a way we wouldn’t see and understand otherwise.

November 11, 2010   No Comments

Don’t Take Life For Granted

Violence is inevitable. I know that. Especially living in New York, there isn’t going to be universal peace in all areas and neighborhoods. People argue. And unfortunately, people fight. But somehow, when you aren’t really exposed to that violence, you seem to forget that it exists.

In my life, although I’ve heard about crimes including mugging and murdering in my neighborhood, I never knew anyone that it happened to. And since I never had any first hand experience with it or knew anyone with these experiences, I never really thought about it. However, in the last four months, I’ve had one friend nearly stabbed to death a block away from my house in Sunset Park and another friend nearly shot to death in Flatbush. The stabbing occured in July while I was on vacation and when I heard about it, I couldn’t believe it. The victim was a life long family friend and a good kid. He was apparently jumped by four “thugs” and stabbed twice in the stomach. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and luckily was in stable condition, able to make a full recovery. There was no motive behind this attack. They simply did it just to do it as far as I know. Hearing about an act like this really makes you think about some people and what could possibly be going through their minds? What causes them to do these things? I will never understand it.

My friend that got shot is a little older than me. He played on my school’s football team but graduated a year before I got there. I saw him recently and he talked about how a few months ago, he got shot three times by a person who he’s known since he was a kid. They’ve lived on the same block they’re whole lives and they had gotten into an argument over something and the guy shot him. My friend spent a week in the hospital recovering and is okay now. But he said while he was in the hospital, he realized that an experience like this really puts things into perspective. One day you can be living care free but tomorrow is never a guarantee. He says he appreciates life so much more now and each day is a blessing.

I am writing this blog post for two reasons. The first is to show the different types people and lives’ in this world and just because we may not experience these situations, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. These things exist and happen everyday. The second reason I am writing this is to show how we should never take life for granted. Count your blessings and be grateful for them because things can always be worse. You never know what tomorrow will bring so be thankful for today.

November 9, 2010   No Comments

Crossing the Generation Gap

As teenagers, we are supposed to be the ones in touch with technology and modern culture. We all want the newest phones and ipods so that we are up to date with what is “In.” That is a cultural aspect of being young. We know the latest technology more than adults because we are growing up with this. Most adults weren’t presented these options at a young age. However, young age may not be a barrier to these new trends.

My mom, who has four kids and in her mid fifties has recently crossed the generation gap from adult to teenager in how she uses technology. A few years ago she was introduced to texting, which she can now stop doing. She will literally text me if I’m in another room of the house if she wants me to go to her, or walk the dog. If she wants to know where I am, she texts me. In just a couple of years she went from talking on a house phone to texting on a cell phone.

Another way she has joined modern culture is that she now has a facebook and is attached to it. Other classmates of mine notice how she’ll comment on a few status’s, or leave a wall post on my page. I don’t mind because it’s my mom, but I just find it funny how she’s become so socially and technology advanced over the past few years. Many adults say how “us kids” are spoiled with our new technology, but my mom doesn’t. She uses it as a way to join this new wave of technology and be socially and culturally connected with people.

I feel many of the cultural differences between age groups have been getting smaller as technology has grown. This modernized way of life has brought generations closer together, whether it’s good or bad. The most recent thing my mom has gotten is a kindle, something that would be unheard of and unimaginable thirty years ago. Now it is what is expected.

October 26, 2010   4 Comments