Appreciating Beauty – Nature perspectives in the Brooklyn Musuem

On Thursday I took my little brother to the Brooklyn Museum, it was raining when we got off the subway, the gargoyles, soldered in fragments on the walls of the Eastern Parkway subway stop caught raindrops in their gaping mouths, we dashed into the shelter offered by the tall white greco-romanesque columns of the museum edifice. When we walked into the museum, there was an event taking place, a Thursday night “in conversation”, the speaker was a director of non-profit that empowers young African American women and helps them build self confidence. She stood on a pedestal over her crowd and said with a powerful voice:

“white people don’t know the statistics of AIDS, white people don’t care about the lives of black women, white people don’t appreciate black beauty”.

I blushed and ducked out of the room. I was so offended by her broad generalization and the idea lingered in my mind; what is my conception of beauty and is it determined by the color of my skin? And furthermore what was her connection between caring about lives and caring about beauty?

The next exhibit was an exploration of Latino Americans who have changed and shaped the world. Large format prints of Marta Moreno Vega, Eva Longoria, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, are lined on the walls of a big square room. In a way, this exhibit continued the conversation on cultural conceptions of beauty. The uniquely Latino flavor of the portraits, for example Sandra Cisneros, a Mexican-American writer, wearing a turquoise cuff with a tattoo on her arm of the Virgin Mary as a sitting Buddha.

The exhibit we came to see was in fact a special exhibit on Youth and Beauty in the American Twenties – the theme of the night continued. The art of that time depicted the conflict’s of a modernizing America.

What is beauty? Is it important?

Now let me connect this back to our blogging theme, nature. The fifth floor of the Brooklyn Museum is a collection of some of the most amazing American art I have ever seen. The landscapes are breathtaking, and then disturbing, because of the devastation that we all know followed. And this brings me back to the theme of Thursday night, beauty. We form our attitudes about beauty by seeing and also by creating. Imitating that which we see and say is beautiful, painting a picture of a landscape or a beautiful woman, not only reflects how we perceive things but also shapes which notion of beautiful is preserved. So when we talk abut preservation and conservation of land, part of accomplishing that is seeing nature as beautiful, and telling the world that nature is beautiful.

Before we left the museum, I stopped in the ladies restroom to fix my hair, I looked at the faces of the other women in the mirror, next to my own, in contrast to my own. Yes, I think they are beautiful. I think they think I’m beautiful too. And yes, powerful African American non-profit director, I do know the statistics on AIDs.

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Forest Fire

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Admiring the Fall

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Admiring the fall.

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Man’s Habitat – Finding Nature in New York City

I live on the corner of Lexington and 29th, a real human habitat. The streets smell like curry and tofu, the churches hold alcoholics anonymous meetings and sell used clothing out of their basements. Preschool teachers lead rows of small children, in mini Uggs, faces of dewy eyes and candy stained cheeks, by loops on rope.

If you walk up the Avenues on 28th towards Seventh Avenue, you find a habitat within a habitat, the Chelsea flower district, a habitat of plants that is distinctly human. Early in the morning the plants are lined up on the sidewalk, catching the moisture from the still wet air as it condensates off of the sidewalks under the morning sun. It seems like a botanical wonderland, green and lush, but it is no Eden. The flower district is sustained with no good intention other than business. The wedding planners, florists, and hotel staff, choose out the plants that suit their needs. With urgency they load bundles of green into trucks and hand the shop-owners the other green. I like that about it, it seems more natural in a way, innate to this human habitat. Natural in the sense that there are no values or ethics imposed on it, but rather it is perpetuated by the same system the rest of this cinderblock city runs on.

At the beginning of my senior year, I went to the Chelsea flower district and I bought a cactus plant to prop on my windowsill. It has four smooth green sides, and a round orange bulb that sits lopsided on its base. I chose the cactus because of its survival skills. I’m gone long weekends. I can hardly remember to drink water in between cups of coffee and I can’t imagine I would adequately water a gardenia or oleander plant. I won’t train an orchid, or measure its sunlight. But, I can live with a cactus, and its easy ways.

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The Picturesque Aesthetic

 

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Window Poem

I’m serving lunch, on my shift at 28th and I
A residence for Borough Park and Monsey’s mentally ill and clinically insane.
The big bay windows give view of a street.
Schoolchildren rush home in their pleated plaid uniforms

Inside Shprintzy strings beads to make a bracelet.
Clumsy large weathered hands and tiny colorful plastic beads
Another patient jumps up and down maniacally and points out the window
At the Indian women and their colorful sari’s
She chants and sings unrelated words as she points a wet (slobber covered) hand at the window

I clear lunch by swiping the plastic tablecloth cover
And I put it in the trash with the food and plastic utensils that remain.
Wipe it clean with Clorox bleach and a paper towel
I wag a finger at Perel, who is picking through the trash.
She grins at my disapproval and swallows a piece of leftover fruit

A man looks invades our window, I make eye contact, look away and change the radio station.
They can see us just as clearly as we can see them; I think we disturb the neighborhood
Being so shamelessly visible
But we leave the blinds open because who cares, and also we like the sunlight.

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English Literature Journal Blog

The reason why I am writing this blog is to observe nature carefully and inquisitively. I believe that I am a part of nature, not an intruder, or an outsider from it, so you will be seeing a lot of me.

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