Category Archives: Art

Festive

By Johna Till Johnson
Photo by Vladimir Brezina

The city is always magical at night…

Illuminations

Midtown Illuminations

A contribution to today’s daily post word: Festive.

Windfall

By Johna Till Johnson

windfall-three-birds-crop-1-effects

Three Birds Enjoy a Windfall on a Summer’s Day

Every so often, something wonderful comes into your life unexpectedly. You didn’t wish for it, or ask for it–it just appeared, providing you with great and wholly unanticipated joy.

For these three birds, the sudden appearance of breadcrumbs (perhaps a loaf from the grocery store across the street) must have represented the purest sort of windfall. Who knows who left the bounty, and why?  But there was no mistaking their happiness as the birds pecked away with great animation.

It’s a happiness I felt, too, when my greatest windfall appeared. Knowing Vlad was so unexpected, so out of the ordinary run of my life, that I couldn’t have conceived of it before it happened. Now that he is gone, there is indeed a “before” and “after” in my life–but not the usual kind. For most who have suffered a loss, the boundary between “before” and “after” is the loss.

My “before” and “after” is marked by meeting Vlad, not by losing him.

Before I met him, I looked at life in a prosaic and utilitarian way. Yes, twinklings and inklings of beauty crept in–sometimes I would pause on a summer’s morning, overtaken by feel of the balmy air and the rustling of bright leaves.

But I harbored the sneaking suspicion that appreciating beauty was something you grew out of. Proper adults didn’t forget their responsibilities and concerns just to gasp in wonder at the V of migrating geese across a brilliant blue sky. And they certainly didn’t go off for days or weeks in a kayak just to lose themselves in the briny air and expanse of ocean. Kayaking was something you fit into your days, not something you built your days (let alone life) around.

Vlad changed all that. Although his passion was science, his life was poetry. He sought–and found–the beauty in all things. And he was happiest spending days and nights in that marathon pursuit. Whether it was hunting down an elusive signal in the lab, or following a waterway to see where it led, his life was a full-throated, unabashed pursuit of beauty.

His legacy to me, and to all who knew him, was showing by example how to upend the usual conventions. Instead of fitting science, art, and poetry into neat boxes in your life, you spent your life exploring them, and following where they led. (And yes, love as well. He loved as he did all things: wholeheartedly and with great generosity.)

That legacy–of love, beauty, poetry, and the willingness to lose oneself in them–that legacy is my windfall. The lines from Tosca recurred to me in the hours and days after his death:

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,
non feci mai male ad anima viva!

I lived for art, I lived for love
I never harmed a living soul!

Before I met Vlad, those lines made no sense to me. Afterwards…ah, afterwards was entirely different. Meeting Vlad was my windfall.

I Used to Hate Spring…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

April puddle

April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

I’ll admit it: I used to hate Spring.

Why “admit”? Because from what I can tell, most people are thrilled by lengthening days, soft fragrant breezes, and the sight of new flowers pushing up through the fresh grass.

In New York, Springtime is especially noteworthy. Everyone takes to the parks. Lovers canoodle. Pets frolic. And we walk around with goofy smiles and say unexpected things to each other, like “Please,” and “Thank you” and “After you!”

So what’s not to love?

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More Fun with Easter Eggs

By Vladimir Brezina

The solid colors of the PAAS Easter-egg coloring kit, while very suitable for serious scientific investigation, were really just a little too plain by themselves. Fortunately the kit also included four paint-on colors and a couple of brushes. So I had a go.

Now, I can draw a stork carrying a baby as well as anyone… on a piece of dry, flat paper. But it wasn’t quite so easy on the wet, slippery egg. The paint was taking forever to dry, and guests were coming in an hour…

This is what I ended up with:

Painted Easter eggs 1 Painted Easter eggs 2 Painted Easter eggs 3

As you can see, I somehow gravitated toward fertility symbols—funny how that happens at Easter with the onset of Spring. I did think of including a few goats and maybe the great god Pan—or just naked female figures—but there wasn’t time. Maybe next year!

Halloween Postmortem, Part II

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

Even skeletons check their cell phonesThis year’s Halloween decorations were plenty scary. But in our neighborhood, they’re just the backdrop: Every year, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, the local neighborhood association, puts on “Spooktacular”, a Halloween block party that features entertainers (including a lively DJ/MC playing dance music) and a costume contest—and of course trick-or-treating, with lots, and lots, and LOTS of candy!

Whole families show up in costume, including mother, father, kids, pets, and—this being the Upper East Side—nanny. (For those who don’t know, the Upper East Side is home to financiers, top lawyers, and other Masters of the Universe.)

The party is open to the whole neighborhood, and it seems to be getting bigger, and better, each year.  (Here are the photos from 2011, 2012, and 2013.)

Looking left... and looking rightVlad in the crowd

The photographer stalking his prey (while being stalked by a giant floating spider)…

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… and here are some of his photos:

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Halloween Postmortem, Part I

By Vladimir Brezina

Halloween decorations 2015 4Halloween 2015 is over—and it was quite a party! So much so that I didn’t even have time to post my photos of the Halloween decorations—if that is the right word—seen this year in our neighborhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Some of the old favorites made return appearances (here are the photos from 2011, 2012, and 2013), but there were many imaginative, even artistic, new additions. Many of the residents of our neighborhood obviously feel a strong need to keep up with the Joneses, no effort or expense spared, in this department as in many others… The huge crowds of trick-or-treating kids loved it all, of course!

(click on any photo to start slideshow)

Even more photos are here.

Part II, with photos of the costumes at the Halloween block party itself, is coming soon!

Frame

By Vladimir Brezina

For this week’s travel-themed photo challenge, Ailsa wants Frame.

Frame

Someone thought this was a good idea for a costume for our annual Halloween block party in 2011. What were they thinking?

We’ll see what tonight’s party brings. Happy Halloween!