A random group of images from a trip to New York comes together under the rubric “Contained,” then inspires a poem.
- What’s left of a perfect espresso macchiato and eggplant pastry at La Colombe, 601 W. 27th St., NY, NY.
- A freestanding window frame contains the view at Queens Botanical Gardens, 43-50 Main Street in Flushing, NY.
- Packing crates for sculpture on the second floor of the Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Rd., Queens, NY.
- Basket made by Pomo Indians (?) in what is now California, photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY.
- Looking up into a sculpture by Ruth Asawa at the David Zwirner Gallery, 525 W. 19th St., NY, NY. Asawa (1926 – 2013) learned to draw while interred in camps in California & Arkansas during WW II. Later, she studied with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College.
- Stacked trash cans at Fort Totten Park, Totten Ave. & 15 Rd., Bayside, NY.
- Moving sculpture (probably the work of Deborah Butterfield) on West 22th St. in Chelsea, NY, NY.
- An old wooden toolbox, washed up at Little Bay, East River, near the Throgs Neck Bridge, Whitestone, NY.
- A portion of “Lorrkon (Hollow Log)” by John Mawurndjul, a leading Australian contemporary indigenous artist. This sculpture relates to the ceremonial use of painted hollow logs to inter people’s bones after death. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY.
- A sculpture by Ruth Asawa at David Zwirner Gallery, 525 W. 19th St., NY, NY.
- A locked door to a now empty ammunition magazine at Fort Totten Park, Totten Ave. & 15 Rd., Bayside, NY.
- A broom and trash cans by the ammunition magazine, Fort Totten Park, Totten Ave. & 15 Rd., Bayside, NY.
Feet ache. An afternoon treat of espresso and pastry revives me, and
I relax and look out at the city streets, as fresh now
after coffee, as a green garden framed
by a floating
window, the window’s square geometry signaling the reassuring
order of framed and enclosed spaces, spaces
that hold us as safely as a crated sculpture, the crate’s stamped symbols
advising “This side up” and so
the contents are safe, unbroken, captivating and precious,
like the basket with feathers on its rim, the basket
that could fly, and it did, it flew
like Ruth’s hands when she wove her round forms
(“We always saw her making art, it was part of her everyday existence”),
the empty/full shapes weightless, almost insubstantial, yet
anchored in craft and material,
the looped metal wires and round contours as familiar as a trash container – but
uncommonly beautiful. And even a trash can might
transcend its surroundings, by way of
aquamarine paint –
as the horse transcends the city street even when
wrapped and tied. Waiting patiently, blue-clad movers watch the street for
signs of trouble, and daydream about fishing a strip of
derelict shore where a toolbox sits,
also patient, also transcending its setting by wearing
ragged, green seaweed vestments,
its wooden surface bearing the creamy, painted evidence of usefulness,
which the hollow ceremonial log
sitting quietly in the museum vitrine,
is denied. Covered with tiny cross-hatchings in outback earth colors
(“I put the experience in my head and went to paint the same thing”),
the somber container
longing for the bones it should but will not contain.
Sixty blocks south, another receptacle hangs tenuously
from the ceiling of an art gallery
throwing cross-hatched shadows, whose
curves dance until
the door is shut
and nothing remains
but a sign indicating “No” and
a worn broom.