Tuesday, December 6, 2011

28 New Haven Days: Part 3

After my last New Haven post, I was starting to think that I may have overdone it in my descriptions about the urban environment here. Okay, so it's a city and it has crime and sharp contrasts in socio-economic classes. But the university area is of course delightful, as you can imagine from the picture I took here of a rather adorable Justice figure decorating the exterior of the neo-Gothic Yale School of Law. But then my friend JM was here for 2 nights (his mother had to have emergency surgery, so I was able to provide him with a place to crash; she's recovering!), and he agreed with me that he saw exactly what I was talking about. Having grown up in CT, he knows many other areas in the state are like this as well. Still, I thought, I must be exaggerating. After all, when last week citizens gathered in the park to light the big Christmas tree, they had a carousel, snacks, petting zoo, and so on. I had no idea there were so many children in this city! It couldn't be that bad. And then, I heard it again: this morning on the local news they announced that yet another murder had taken place during the night. This is New Haven's 32nd murder this year. So now I know for sure I'm not cracking up. Surprisingly though the community seems to getting upset as well. This evening I was coming out of the Beinecke Library and I heard/saw what must have been a crowd of over 200 people protesting and marching in the streets. At first I thought it was an Occupy New Haven event, but their chants corrected me: "What do we want?" - "SAFE STREETS!" - "When do want it?" - "NOW!" I rest my case.

Sticking within the enclave that is the museum and university environment, I joined the YCBA staff for their annual holiday party, which was delightful. I also went to a lunch-lecture last Thursday sponsored by the Material Culture Study Group. Becky Conekin, Senior Research Fellow in the History Department, gave a fun talk about '60s model Twiggy and mopeds. She based the talk on a series of photos taken of Twiggy in the late 1960s and proceeded to explore more about how the moped in the shots related to new ideas about youth, women, sexuality, and London as a new counterculture city. I also went today to an "Art in Context" talk at the YCBA, which is free and open to the public, although many people in the university art community come as well. Set in conjunction with the current exhibition Adapting the Eye: An Archive of the British in India, 1770-1830, the talk was about this near life-sized painting you see here, Dancing Girl, 1772, by a little-known English painter named Tilly Kelly, who had a productive career in India. The talk was given by Gillian Forrester, Sylvia Houghteling, and Holly Shaffer, each of whom addressed different aspects about the painting, from the subject to details like the sari the woman wears. One of the more intriguing things about this picture was that conservation work and x-rays have shown that the subject originally was part of a much larger painting in which the woman was performing or paired with another figure, probably a man who was reclining looking up at her. The background was also completely different and repainted by Kelly, perhaps to suit a patron who decided he wanted just an exotic Indian woman. More research needs to be done to consider other aspects about this picture, but it just goes to show how art shouldn't be taken at face value. There is often much more going on behind the layers of paint, and its social history makes it a much more living thing.


Sherman Clarke said...

As I wandered the streets of New Orleans yesterday, I was thinking about your post. Part of the day was spent in the serenity of the New Orleans Museum of Art, part along St Charles Avenue and in the Quarter, but also parts along Carrollton, Washington, Toledano, and Louisiana avenues as I walked a loop from the Quarter to NOMA to Xavier to St Charles. Prospect 2.0 was not really open yesterday but I did see the Francesco Vezzoli at the Piazza d'Italia and the William Pope.L at Xavier (it's a projection piece so daylight viewing is a bit empty and silly ... but maybe there's a YouTube of the projections).

Oh, New Orleans has had more than 100 murders already this year. I can't remember the exact number I read but it's already as many as last year. Still, it's less than one every three days or something like that. What are the chances you'll be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

bklynbiblio said...

Sherman, thanks for this. It helps put it in perspective for sure. I can't help but think of New Orleans as an actual "city" however, and it never really had a period when it was a safe city, so it surprises me less in that sense to hear about the number of murders & crimes. However, it seems like New Haven only exists because of Yale, and you'd think the two existed as two separate cities unto themselves. I imagine part of my problem is that I have this vision of New Haven and other parts of CT as bucolic New England villages, but clearly that isn't the case. I'd like to think that maybe it will change here, that people are more aware and want it to change, but who knows.