Tag Archives: Manhattan

Fore! Mini-Golf as Art

Friends, countrymen, Walkers! Lend me your shoes! It’s been a long time since we strolled the sidewalks together. For this, I beg your forgiveness and come to you with a peace offering: News of  avant-garde mini-golf on Governors Island.

Before I begin, let me issue a warning: If you want to go someplace in New York City that other people like to go, rest assured, they will all be there.

In this fashion, I lined up for the water taxi to the not-so-distant  isle laying off the coast of Manhattan on a humid, overcast, Saturday morning with about a hundred other humans, many of which were of the toddler variety. And here I thought to myself, maybe I should go somewhere else. But by the courage of my convictions and my well known pluck, I remained long enough to board the ship. (I also made my husband hold our place in line while I went in search of a nearby coffee stand. No luck.) After a jaunty voyage of about a minute and a half, we stepped back onto dry land and made a b-line for the mini-golf run course by the arts organization, Figment.  As a person who has played mini-golf in no less than 10 states and 4different countries, I can tell you, Figment’s course is unique, to say the least. Exhibit A:

Hole in 23,574 that we know of

What’s on the other side of this devilish mushroom cloud?

This hole was about as frustrating as its topic

That’s right, a miniature golf  hole that comments on the danger of missile defense shields when one considers they spur further nuclear proliferation. Take that classic windmill hole.

Not all the holes were as politically charged. This one:

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

for example, was inspired by Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz, as one might have guessed by the title. However, when one considers that Baum was also the progenitor of the modern department store window display – true story -surely we can read this piece as a meditation on all of our tattered consumerist dreams filled with nothing more than hot air. Or not. I thought it was a reference to balloon boy. And that ladies and gentlemen, is why you should read artist statements.

But! you protest, nuclear proliferation and consumerist culture don’t compare to the havoc we’re wreaking on Mother Earth! Have no fear, my fellow tree-hugger, Figment does not disappoint.

Non-Smokey the Bear

Designed by Build it Green, this hole questions our often cartoonish and anthropromorphised vision of nature that lends itself to screwing it up completely. Side B:

Yogi says: pick up your trash a$$hole!

But, by far my favorite was Number 9, entitled, Hotel Atlantis at Bikini Bottom. Working overtime with the pop-culture references, this hole encompasses the man-made disaster that is GM as well as Spongebob Squarepants, that most loved and loathed cartoon character. You see, in 1964 GM had a pavilion at the World’s Fair called Futurama.

Step One

In this pavilion, GM PR agents decided it would be a good idea to espouse the idea that in the future, people might be visiting underwater luxury hotels with names like Hotel Atlantis. These figures are inside the flying saucer-esque hotel.

Welcome to Hotel....Atlantis

But then something, well a lot of things happened, and the American car industry went,

Down the Tube.

And thus we end with Spongebob’s pineapple house in his home town, Bikini Bottom, that like GM, lies at the bottom of the ocean. Ouch!

Nice house, Bob

Who knew mini-golf could be so provocative?

Next time: Public Art is not for the fainthearted.

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Live from the People’s Garden

Frank, sitting pretty

Which people, you might ask. According to Frank, caretaker of the Lower Ease Side People’s Garden,  all people. Not bad.

For those of you just tuning in, I’m in Chinatown and while looking for a cottage-industry tannery somewhere near the Bureau Gallery, I stumbled across this gem of outdoor space in New York City.

If you’re one of those bridge and tunnel people like myself, vacant lots turned into mini tomato, zucchini, and potato patches are both totally awesome and  pretty common.

However, in addition to fruits, Frank’s garden also has:

Bon journo!

It’s really the tinfoil roll in back that makes it art. And that’s not all.

Ahhh! A skeleton....candle holder!

Herbs and a wooden boat

A lot of community gardens are just for the members, which is all well and good. But what about the rest of us who have neither the time nor the money to go digging in the dirt and want to enjoy the urban outdoors?  Sure there’s Central Park.  But who wants to take the Lexington Line? Or circumnavigate the perambulating  Met-goers in a trance from all the Greco-Roman art?

It’s also the size of the People’s Garden, or rather, lack there of, that makes it appealing. At less than a quarter acre, it gives a sense of intimacy that you can’t get in the larger, more crowded public spaces of NYC. In fact, it’s a bit like Gramercy without the locked gate and old money waving you off their lawn with canes.

But, the greatest thing about the LESPG (Lower East Side People’s Garden – I have a thing for acronyms) is the kitsch, the perfect campyness of it. And not in a bad way. There’s about a thousand and one aspiring artists in Williamsburg who would give their right eye, leg, and arm to be able to curate a space this cool.  It’s authentic, welcoming, and utterly Lower East Side.

What's he looking at?


But of course, I forgot to write down where this is, so your only choice is to wander aimlessly until you find it. Having done it myself, I can tell you it’s not a bad way to spend the day. In fact, you couldn’t do much better.

Later this week, the roller coasters of Coney Island. You must be at least this tall to ride.

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Chinatown in the year 4708

On a blustery Mother’s Day I got off at the Grand Street stop  in New York City’s Chinatown in this Year of the Tiger, 4708. No really. That’s the year according to the Chinese Calender. Makes 2010 seem a bit paltry, no?

More than any walk I’ve taken so far, I had no idea where I was going or what I was looking for. Having had perhaps one too many the night before, my head was, shall we say, a bit hazy as I ascended from the subway. Luckily, in Chinatown a willingness, if not aptitude for getting lost, will get you everywhere, and I ended up going, uhhh, that way!

Whichever way that was (I could not for a million dollars retrace my steps), turned out to be the market district of Chinatown – and not the one near the Canal street stop either. This was the real deal.

At first I was a little reticent to take pictures. After all, I wanted neither to appear to be a tourist, nor to have an orientalist fetish. But after bypassing a few jaw dropping sights, I pretty much got over whatever fears I had.


More Noodles!

Even More Noodles!

Okay, I realize I got a bit carried away with the noodles there, so forgive me in advance for the proliferation of sea creature photography:

Fish in a Box


Crayfish in the City

They're Alive!

Oh man... how'd I get here?

But I just can’t help myself. There’s something so intriguing about walking around Chinatown’s market district. It gives you the sense you’re in a world other than your own. Not that this particular American mutt was treated with anything but the utmost courtesy- everyone let me take photos and I got to taste some dried abalone gratis. It’s just the non-packagedness of it all. Fish are still wrapped in newspaper. You get your lobsters with rubber bands on their claws. The noodles are tied with ribbon! More than the language, this is the difference. The lack of over sanitization, separation, alienation and all kinds of other lefty words ending in ation. In a world of styrofoam meat and genetically engineered produce, it’s nice to see crabs in a basket from time to time. But speaking of produce:

no one could tell me what these were




After about half an hour of dodging and weaving through the crowds while trying to snap a few photos in between, I needed a little respite and headed off to one of the side streets to see what I could see. What I found was no less interesting.

This piece of public art:

remains mercifully without a explanatory placard. I’ve named it the Great Wall of Chinatown. While it looks wooden (to me, in any case) from a distance, it’s actually made of brick.

Just beyond this, on what I seem to recall being Division Street, I saw a rather placid looking statue towering above the passersby.

With trepidation, I climbed the stairs to the Sun Tak Buddhist Association. Is this trespassing? Am I defiling a religious temple? Thinking about these things, and not really looking where I was going, I almost ran into a worshiper coming down. Apparently used to curious twenty somethings, he jumped out of my way. “Sorry!” he said. I assured him the fault was mine.

While this temple is above a 99 cent store, no kidding, it’s no less peaceful for it. You can’t see the people on the  street, and they in turn can’t see you. There are any number of store front temples in Chinatown, but with a little room outdoors, the Sun Tak Association is able to create an accessible, yet solemn space.

Offerings to the Triple Gem

Blooming Lily


Later this week, the best little art gallery this side of the Iron Curtain, The People’s Garden, and what I had for lunch. (Sow’s ear in red sauce for one thing. Delicious!) If you’re still hungry for  more pictures of Chinatown foodstuffs, just scroll down. See you soon.

How much is that lobster in the window?

It's a King Crab

this speaks for itself

Newspaper adds to the flavor....

Pears in white

Restaurant window fish tank


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