KRAZY! Cosplay

These days, My Favorite 15 Year Old is all about everything Japanese: mochi and daifuku, anime, J-pop delivered by pretty guy-liner eyed boys whose clothing dips deep into cross-dressing. She totes around the yellow and black Japanese for Dummies and by my untrained ear, her accent sounds quite impressive.

Thanks to her, we recently had our first Cosplay experience as part of Japan Society‘s current anime, manga and video games exhibit. I imagine that this is what a Star Trek Convention must be like but with more satin bows. We saw wigs in every hue and height, shiny intergalactic impenetrable fabrics, red contact lenses, seven foot swords, knee socks and samurai, hoop skirts and bustles, even a cascade of LED lights with a battery pack tucked away in a skirt bustle. (Very cool, literally, the tiny lightbulbs weren’t hot at all. I made a note for my next dress up moment.)

I was struck by the number of girls dressed as male characters and by the number of scullery maid get-ups with floppy caps and lacy aprons. “Lolitas” My FF15YO said, adding they’re usually licking giant lollipops or carrying palm sized plushy critters.  “Oh.” I replied.

The party was sold out. Reni, a Cosplay singer, in bunny ears and coquetteish dance moves sang to us in Japanese. I asked around if anyone hailed from the Bronx. Other than us three I didn’t find anyone else.

The costumes were great. The best were the original ones. A few were sewn by the Cosplayer themselves. The mood was upbeat and full of teen (and 20s something) spirit. We had a great time.


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An Hour Lost, A Friend Gained

Homemade Banana Cream Pudding at Bruckner Bar & Grill
No complaints from me about the time change. I’m always glad to see the sun set later.

I had a chizzy Sunday brunch at the Bruckner Bar & Grill with artist Stephanie Chisholm. First order of business, to congratulate her on her newly released book Alphabet City!  Animals from A to Z making their way, or “frolicking” as Chiz says, around New York City: on the A train, at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, riding the M96 bus…My favorite is “G”, with Giraffe helping a scared baby monkey clutching the spire of the Empire State Building. I’m smitten with her monkeys. Stephanie had a write up on the uber nesting blog Apartment Therapy — they liked ” V” — Vampire Bat.

Her paintings are joyous.  Alphabet City is for the wee ones, tweens, teens and their parents.

We talked and talked, not even missing the lost hour and shared a bowl of the homemade banana cream pudding. Ohhhh it is good. Instead of a bed of Nilla wafers at the bottom, they’ve pureed them up fine, and mixed them right into the custard.

We took a walk down Bruckner Boulevard. Less and less to see on this stretch of Bruckner Boulevard these days. Most of the antique shops were closed (’cause it was Sunday?) and some spaces vacant inside. And I was shocked to see the “Available for Lease” sign on the window of the ground floor space at Lincoln Avenue. The Bronx Museum of Arts Project Space is there no more?? I recently read in the Bronx Times that artists are leaving South Bronx neighborhoods Mott Haven and Longwood for Wakefield, Highbridge and Westchester Square. Delicate times we are in.

We stepped into Haven Arts gallery to see the exhibits there. “DEADLY4MULA”, a graffiti exhibit is up. Tags and graffiti pieces painted directly on the walls by young artists from Bronx high school Millennium Art Academy, are side by side with veteran graf writers. Paintings, photographs and sculptures are mounted on the tagged walls.

Also on exhibit, various “Homeless and Hungry God Bless” signs once held by homeless street beggars but purchased by artist and Haven Arts Gallery owner, Barry Kostrinsky.

At the back of the space, is a large wooden platform and ramp set up for in line skating we were told. I would love to see that.

I deeply enjoyed the Polaroid photographs in the grouping “Last Gasp: The Passing of Polaroid Film” by J.C. Rice and Barry Kostrinsky. [Titled “Last Gasp” because Polaroid went bankrupt and stopped producing the film last year.] I have expressed before in this blog how much I love Polaroids. I love that kind of hazy dreamy quality the photos have–a bit out of focus like a memory.

They had all kinds of vintage Polaroid cameras in a bookcase on display. Fabulous! And what made Steph and I utterly gasp, was the pair of Sylvania Blue Dot flash cubes there on the shelf. I have not seen those for years and years!! Wow! I will never forget those cubes burning the center of my forehead when it rotated around. So old school. But so fun to remember.

Make sure to visit the bathroom in Haven Arts, even if you don’t have to go. It is, its own gallery space and should not be missed.


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En Foco and Pregones Theatre Present…

The Pregones Theatre was lively on Wednesday evening.  With people filing in straight off the Trolley and others with kids darting in out of the cold. Everyone was coming for the {free} concert with Los Charlatanes & Navegante and to take in the gorgeous portraits on exhibit by photographer Rojelio Reyes Rodriguez.  I was there for the photos and a chance to say hello to Marisol Diaz of En Foco. Us folk mingling together in the front hall kept being shushed by Pregones staff…funny considering the booming music pouring in from the concert in the theatre (which was packed).  Good time had by all!

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En Foco is a Bronx based non-profit devoted to exposing photography from camera holders representing diverse cultural perspectives. They publish a gorgeous award winning magazine, Nueva Luz, and offer a lot of resources to get photographers exhibit ready. The latest post on their blog, for example, is how to exhibit on a lean budget.

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Pregones is a community theatre and a really great space. They’ve been in the Bronx since 1979 and have incredible savings on their ticket pricing to keep the theatre accessible.  They offer Zip Tickets, 50% off for residents in zip codes 10451/Mott Haven, 10452/Highbridge, 10454/Port Morris, and 10474/Hunts Point. This is their special gift to their friends and neighbors in the Bronx Empowerment Zone.  They also offer 30% off for full-time students and adults over 65.

Actually, with the discount, the cost of a ticket for most of their productions, is not much more than going to see a movie.

It’s important to keep supporting our Bronx arts organizations, now more than ever!

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More about the Bronx Culture Trolley in here.

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Obama in Type

I love letterpress.
I love the uneven saturation of the ink on the paper.
I love the thickness of the paper.
I love the visible grain from wood type on the paper .
Then I came upon this Obama poster on Blogorrhea Junior.
The illustration of President Obama is comprised of letters and numbers and characters.
Nothing is completely random about their placement.
The artist, Kishore Nallan, embedded important dates and figures in the design relevant to the Obama presidency.
(“365” for the number of electoral votes he won, “Jan 20” the date of the inauguration and “53%” for the percentage of total votes won).
Even a bit of Obama’s New Hampshire speech make up the neck:
“Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future. And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear, we will respond with three simple words – Yes, we can.”

The poster was created on one of the few platen presses in Chennai, India after 40 hours of laying the type by hand.

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This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Vandercook Press.
I’m sure one or two of these presses are lurking around here in the Bronx…

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What do Graffiti Artists do When They Grow Up?

Ezo showing his work on exhibit at Longwood Art Gallery.

Ezo with his work at the Longwood Art Gallery in the Bronx.

I love to hear artists talk about their work.  Yes, the work should stand on its own. Commentary from the artist should not be necessary.  That’s one school.  But I saw the exhibit Graffiti Spirit of an Age @ 40 x 10 * without it.  And I was really confused.  I got that this was a kind of “where are they now” for these former graffiti writers from the mid-80s.  But the work–metal sculpture, collage, prints, paintings–all together didn’t have a binding theme.  The work I liked the least didn’t resemble any of the other work in that it looked most like graffiti.  And a couple of canvasses looked unfinished.  So we went back for the Artists Talk. Three of the ten showed.  (“Graf artists are shy and don’t like to come out,” Ezo explained.)  They talked honestly and openly. They have a love/hate view of their graffiti period–they recognize it as a vital part of their past, but one they’re not often eager to ‘fess up to.  The afternoon turned into a bit of a love fest. Mainly teenage guys in attendance, a few taking photos. One guy was filming with his point & shoot camera, ran out of space and then started recording with his iPhone. (He’d hacked it. I asked.) Others came with their black sketchbooks asking the old school writers for their tags.

(*The 40 x 10 in the show title refers to the size of a subway car…Thanx Kool Spin for making me sound like I knew all along!)

Here are what Ezo, Klass and Cey had to say about their graffiti artist days:

Ezo's tagEzo today = painter…uses pre-columbian imagery and saints in his paintings, influenced by war and the US involvement in the Middle East, working on a series of canvasses on the Seven Deadly Sins.

Ezo: “Graffiti is vandalism…There should be a way to channel this energy into another art form…keep art school programs…the city politicians should have been taking care of their business…how could they blame 13 and 14 year kids for what was happening in New York?…New York City doesn’t embrace graffiti as art like Europe or even as some other cities in the U.S.”

Cey speaking on his work at Longwood Art Gallery.
Cey speaking on his work at Longwood Art Gallery.

Cey today = graphic artist and art director…influenced by pop art and superheroes, Warhol and Lichtenstein…learned screenprinting from one of Warhol’s Factory printers…uses Diamond Dust (tiny fragments of ground diamonds) on his work.

Cey: “Kids are always going to look for a way to get into trouble…part of doing the graffiti was the thrill of it, falling down, getting cut, sneaking into the train yard–you always had a good story to tell afterward…but today, I try to convince the young guys not to do it.”

Klass in front of his work at the Longwood Art Gallery.
Klass in front of his work at the Longwood Art Gallery.

Klass today — experiments a lot with materials…his pieces are layered and textured and explore a trip to Cuba to explore his heritage…trained to be an art teacher, three times up for the job, each time cancelled due to budget cuts…works as a graphic and commercial artist…

Klass: “Back then there were not a lot choices, you could either do this thing, or do that thing and hang with those kids who got arrested the week before, or hang out with the other kids and paint…my work is therapy, a way of dealing with the internal demons…I’m through with painting letters.  It’s time to move on.”


Juanita Lanzó, Program Coordinator, at Longwood Art Gallery

Juanita Lanzó, Program Coordinator, at Longwood Art Gallery.


Filmmaker Charlie Ahearn in orange parka listening in.

Wildstyle filmmaker, Charlie Ahearn, in orange parka listening in.


Kool Spin tagging a sketch book.

Kool Spin tagging a sketchbook.