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A Day in Metropolis
October 4, 2010 - Bill Ackerbauer
My wife and I went down to NYC on Saturday for a bit of cultural recreation. We were part of a group of about 55 people from Fulton County who took a chartered bus to Manhattan so we could take in “POPart: The Musical,” a show featuring the musical compositions of Johnstown native Aaron McAllister. The musical is one of several being produced this month as part of the New York Musical Theater Festival.
Earlier in the day, we had a fantastic lunch at a bistro called Nizza, where I ordered the gnocchi quattro formaggio instead of the wild boar lasagna. Tough call! Considering the restaurant is in Hell’s Kitchen, perhaps I should have tried something “fra diavolo.”
After lunch, we hoofed it over to see the Matisse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the experience much more if the museum were less hot and crowded — it’s hard to appreciate a work of art when other people’s heads get between yours and the canvas. By the time we were done, my neck was sore from straining to get an uninterrupted view of anything. (Only one wall, featuring line-drawings and rough sketches, was fairly accessible; I suppose people are attracted, like hummingbirds, to bright colors).
I’m not especially knowledgeable about art, but I had seen enough of Matisse’s major works to know that I enjoyed them more than those of many other modern or post-modern painters, so it was exciting to see so many of them up close. The one piece that made the strongest impression upon me was one I had never seen before — his Portrait of Auguste Pellerin, who was a wealthy businessman — a manufacturer of margarine, to be precise — who greased the wheels of fortune for French artists such as Matisse and Cezanne with his patronage. The museum’s informational plaque about the portrait says it was the second version of the portrait that Pellerin had commissioned. The patron rejected the first for being “too daring,” so Matisse painted a second portrait that by all accounts is even bolder and more striking. Henri, if he were still alive, could paint my portrait any day.
After fighting the crowd in the Matisse exhibit, we checked out another that featured photographs of sculptures. It was all very interesting, but frankly it was hard to appreciate the second exhibit after taking in the first. I suspect art is a bit like food and drink in the sense that one’s appetite should be refreshed in between courses. So perhaps mixing Matisse’s “Blue Nude” and photos of Rodin’s “The Thinker” was a bit like washing down gnocchi quattro formaggio with Belgian beer. Or perhaps I ate too much gnocchi quattro formaggio and drank too much Belgian beer.
Also, my feet hurt.
Before leaving MoMA, we cooled our heels in the Sculpture Garden, which boasts a tree festooned with the inscribed wishes of visitors. “I wish for my next wish to be something worth wishing for,” one Zen hipster had written on a tag. I much preferred the more honest-sounding “I wish for two big bags of candy.”
My favorite item in the garden was Picasso’s whimsical “She-Goat” sculpture, and I wondered why none of the hundred-odd children there didn’t give in to the urge to jump on the beast’s bronze back. Several kids did, however, crawl all over another sculpture that was labeled “DO NOT TOUCH,” which gave me a chuckle because the sculpture was shaped very much like a bench.
All in all, it was an enjoyable day trip, and I can see why millions of people flock to New York City for its restaurants, museums and theaters. It was nice to get out of town and pay $4 for a cup of coffee near Times Square, but I have to admit that I’ve attended shows, visited art exhibits and eaten meals as good (or better) than those we experienced Saturday in The City. In many cases, they can be found closer to home and in much smaller towns, and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. (Have you been to the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany? Have you been to the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie? Have you eaten at Union Hall in Johnstown or 391 South Main or the Downtowner in Gloversville?) On the ride home Saturday evening, I thought about the two big events I was missing at home — the Community Harvest Dinner organized by the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market and the performance of the NPR program "Selected Shorts" in Canajoharie.
Maybe I’m just a country mouse at heart, but when my wife and I took our kids to Rogers Family Orchard on Sunday, and we drank fresh cider and watched the kids climbing on the haystacks, the Big Apple was the farthest thing from my mind.
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Matisse's "Portrait of Auguste Pellerin (II)."