Barbara Kruger, seeing something and saying something #barbarakruger #mta

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I’ve been carrying around my Barbara Kruger designed MetroCard for awhile now, and the sight of it still thrills me.

Every time I swipe my way through a turnstile I’m reminded of how much I believe in public art as well as how extraordinary it felt to actually score one of these 50,000 limited-edition cards. I had a plan. It worked. But of course, it was all luck.

Here were my seven steps:

  1. First, I waited. The cards dropped on a Wednesday at four select subway stations. I learned via The New York Times that they were to be randomly distributed and only sold via vending machines. I couldn’t imagine that the existing stack of cards would be swapped out, replaced with the art cards; so I held out until Saturday, hoping other commuters would burn through the generics.
  2. I picked the Broadway-Lafayette Street station, because I frequently pass through here on my way to volunteer at Housing Works Bookstore. Perhaps I’d stored up some synchronicity along the line?  
  3. There were a few entrances from which to choose at this B/D/F/M hub, each had a number of vending machines. I went for one with an attendant, thinking that maaaaybe the cards would be sent out for distribution, addressed to station managers, and they’d stock the machines closest to their booths. I chose the station on the NE corner under the adidas store (because–well–I adore this brand).
  4. Eyeing the line of MetroCard vending machines, all chrome and lit up with “See Something, Say Something” alerts, I felt the same as I did the couple of times in my life that I’ve hmmm-ed over a slot machine to play. Blind. So I gave myself a $20 maximum to spend, in case the art collector in me took over.
  5. The first machine produced a Diesel-branded card. And for a split second, I loathed absolutely everything about SoHo and Capitalism and that I’d ever opened myself up to such a whimsical yet real want in this swirly, grinding whirlwind of a city with deeply rank odds.
  6. I stepped back from the blinking machines. They each held thousands upon thousands of cards. I had four more chances. Three, if I was being strict with staying under my budget. My partner, Melinda, and I watched a few folks buy MetroCards; both of us squinting for flashes of Kruger’s signature red, her iconic white Futura typeface. “I saw red,” Melinda said with conviction, pointing at the machine closest to the turnstiles.
  7. Buzzing like a third rail with hope, I stepped up, slid in my credit card, purchased a minimum stored value card for the amount of $5.25 or something, and held my breath as I flipped over the standard yellow-and-blue printed top to see what might materialize beneath. And with the rush of the right train pulling into the station, I saw it was a Barbara Kruger card.

The Lucky Barbara Kruger MTA Vending Machine

I tried for another, for a friend, a mega Kruger fan, and scored a second card. For the next few days, I directed everyone who cared to the lucky MTA vending machine. They all pulled art cards on the first try.

Many have asked if I’ve framed mine. No way.

Public art is meant to be public–seen by as many people as possible–not locked away, pressed beneath glass, stuck to my private wall.

I only have until 1/31/2019, when the card expires, to carry the message, asking:

Whose hopes? Whose fears? Whose values? Whose justice? 

[Do you seek? Support? Secure? Uphold?]

 

Innominate means not named or classified. The word has been used to describe human arteries, veins, bones, and currently an exhibition about healing. Heather Bradley’s innominate at form & concept is a body of works, including a collection of Arterial, Spinal, and Handheld clay pieces, as well as text art.

Amy Deneson Heather Bradley innominate

“innominate” by Heather Bradley at form & concept on 9.23.17

Dozens of black, white, and red pieces cover a 30-foot wall. Circular red pods, symbolizing blood droplets and reminiscent of traditional seed jars, dot. Vessels with tall necks take on the look and feel of vertebra, some with glaze scraped bare. Black-and-white porcelain pages, transcribed from her diary, tell a story of seeking. Text art spells out:

pain

wound

circulatory

Heather explains that her work is representative of whatever she is presently going through in life. When she created innominate, she was learning to be a massage therapist and recovering from a spinal injury (severe enough that she was advised to stop throwing pottery).

Amy Deneson Heather Bradley bonessacral

pressure

choose

She kept creating and learning to heal with her hands. The clay began to take the form of her spine—readjusting—and her body flowing—spinning beneath—transformative touch.

I love this expression of clay. I appreciate how physical it is–how, literally, to the core the work goes. As a potter and a writer, I empathize with the story Heather’s sharing, and this collection deeply moved me. I’m so glad to have caught the exhibition during a day trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Since, this collection has become something else. I learned during my visit that innominate would be transformed on the following Monday.

Amy Deneson Heather Bradley clay flowwrite

clay

erase

flow

 

Concluding my log of quotes from Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a LivingI EARLY DAYS and II THE DAILY GRIND–with final section of the book, III SOMEDAY.

It was Austin Kleon, in conversation with Manjula, who inspired the idea for this series. In “Selling Out” Austin also remarked: “What happens when the thing that kept you alive suddenly becomes the thing that literally keeps you alive? The thing that kept you spiritually alive now not only has to keep you spiritually alive, but also has to keep you financially alive? Like, literally, alive. Like, food in your mouth.”

 

“A Sort of Fairy Tale” Malinda Lo

“The fact is, financial necessity can be extremely clarifying. When your goal is to make enough money to pay the rent, writing loses a lot of its artistic mystique and becomes something much more mundane: a job. Thinking of writing as a job made the countless uncertainties that come with being a writer manageable. It gave me a rubric by which to measure my success. But without financial need, I found it difficult to continue thinking of writing as my job. And if I didn’t need to write for money, why was I writing?”

 

“FAQ: How to Buy a HomeMallory Ortberg

“But it is important to acknowledge the distinction between being broke and being poor.”

 

From “Diversity is Not Enough” by Daniel José Older (click to expand)

 

“Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing” Daniel José Older

The question industry professionals need to ask themselves is: How can I use my position to help create a literary world that is diverse, equitable, and doesn’t just represent the same segment of society it always has since its inception?”

 

“Worth” Jennifer Weiner

“Would I have taken the deal, knowing what it meant? In the business of being an author, is it better to be broke but respectable than it is to be rich but dismissed? And why does it even matter? I’ve been asked, more than once—usually by one of the writers on the broke-but-respectable side of things, unpublished or underpublished or underappreciated, well-reviewed but not well-read, one who can’t imagine that it’s anything other than heaven on the other side of the fence. You’ve got money. What could be wrong? Who cares what people are saying. Just laugh all the way to the bank!

I can’t answer them.”

 

“The If of It: Lunatic Independence in Nine Easy Steps” Laura Goode

Preliminary research revealed no studio would acquire or produce a screenplay about three diverse women trying to discover America and themselves through politics and sex.”

 

I deeply appreciated this book, found it invaluable. Much gratitude to Manjula Martin for creating this compendium that kept it real about money and art and publishing but also most notably enriched the conversation about class.

For sure, I’ll return to the thoughts of Colin Dickey, Kiese Laymon, Leslie Jamison, Malinda Lo, Daniel José Older, and Laura Goode, time and time again, like found treasure.

xx

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