Friday, October 25, 2013

30x30: Find a Banksy

Prolific graffiti artist Banksy recently declared a month-long "residency" on the streets of New York. I've long been a fan of Banksy and urban street art in general (yes, it's illegal, but so are a lot of things that are no where near as beautiful or interesting to look at), so viewing a Banksy, live and in person, immediately got added to my list of 30 things to do before I turn 30.

This became especially challenging because at the exact moment these artworks started hitting the streets, I descended into the dark underbelly of New York's theater world, resurfacing with just one week left in October. Add to that the facts that many of the artworks are in hard-for-me-to-get-to locations (I couldn't find Bushwick if you paid me) and have already been re-graffitied over, and it becomes clear why finding these limited editions was so difficult for me. But yesterday, I happened upon the perfect combination: an afternoon off AND an actual address of the most recent Banksy - the side door of the Hustler Club on Manhattan's west side.

With a spring in my step and a fully charged iPhone, off I went. Admittedly, this one wasn't hard to spot. Half a block away there were people selling Banksy magnets from inside a garage. 2 bouncers and a group of about 20 people surrounded the artwork, and I had to wait for my turn to reach my arms through a gap in the crowd to snap the requisite photos. But lack of ceremony aside, there it was in all it's glory - a forlorn man leaning up against a doorway, waiting for his paramour while the flowers from his bouquet wilted to the ground. And I have to say that it was beautiful. It was bright and vivid and elicited emotions I didn't think possible from a mere few cans of spray paint.

I was pretty pleased with myself - I found a Banksy! But my luck didn't stop there. A few hours later and on my way to work, I saw a huge group of people gathered in Union Square. Since it is not out of the ordinary for large amounts of people to be staring at something in a heavily trafficked area in New York, I actually didn't pay too much attention to whatever they were staring at. Until I heard squawking. And mooing. And banging. And then I looked up, and found myself face-to-face with a second Banksy - called the Sirens of the Lambs, this one is a mobile art installation in which a slaughterhouse delivery truck filled with animatronic stuffed barnyard animals roams the streets of New York.

It was disturbing. And recollective of The Jungle. And turned me into a vegetarian for a solid 20 minutes. The poor little lambs actually looked down at you, begging to be saved from the deep fryer! Rethinking my culinary outlook on life, I began to walk away when I pretty much ran right into a THIRD Banksy - a replica of a Ronald McDonald statue with a live actor in tattered clothing giving the clown's shoes a shine.

This was easily the most thought-provoking artwork of the three. The social commentary was obvious, but it also brought to mind the degree to which someone will go to make a point. Artists have been creating performance art in the form of live installations for decades (Marina Abramović, Wafaa Bilal, Sophie Calle, just to name a few), but these are often ticketed events and/or situations in which the patron has to seek out or attend the artwork, and usually feature the artist him/herself. In the case of this Banksy, however, unsuspecting viewers happen upon this artwork in the middle of their commute. This then begs the question, does one need to seek out art in order for it to be effective? Or is it actually more effective if it surprises you? I went looking for Banksy - but I can only imagine how someone would feel if s/he had run to McDonald's on a lunch break only to be confronted with a poor-looking teenager literally toiling at the feet of the very symbol of the business he was attempting to patronize.

Definitely food for thought, and certainly the most interesting and exciting of my 30x30 projects so far. Banksy is supposed to be in this city for another week or so, and I hope to see more of his work, whether intentionally or by accident.

All photos were taken by me with my trusty iPhone 4s and edited with PhotoToaster, Snapseed, and/or A Beautiful Mess. 30x30 is my name for a silly little bucket list project that I intend to complete by my 30th birthday at the end of March, 2014.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week night/date night meals: Chili

I had the entire day off yesterday, and since it's been nearly a month since J and I have seen each other during normal business hours, I decided to cook up a batch of hearty chili for a fun weeknight/datenight - but added a surprising ingredient (chocolate!) to create a sexy vibe to an otherwise comforting fall meal.
In a large pot, sauté a chopped medium-sized onion and a clove of garlic in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the onions are nicely browned, add your spices. This is where the chili becomes particular and distinct - personally, I opt for healthy dashes of salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cumin, a hearty amount of Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning, and a few pinches of a special spice blend gifted to me at a party that includes cayenne, coffee, coriander, fennel, ginger, juniper, paprika, and thyme (note to self: recreate this mix asap, as I am getting dangerously low). Let the spices really soak into the onion and garlic, smell-testing as you stir. Add 1 lb. of ground beef, and cook until brown. Stir in 6-8 oz. of tomato paste, 12-14 oz. of diced tomatoes (for an added kick, I chose a can of diced tomatoes with jalepeños added in), 2 cans of red kidney beans, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Let this mixture simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce and (get ready) 2 tsps. of chili-flavored dark chocolate (Lindt makes a delicious version) - this will give your chili a sultry flavor you never knew you were missing in your cooking. Cover the pot and simmer for at least 15 minutes or longer (the longer you simmer, the stronger the flavors will get). Boil 12 oz. of elbow macaroni. When the pasta is fully cooked, remove the chili from the heat and stir in the macaroni. Serve in a bowl, adding shredded cheddar cheese if desired.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Butternut squash salad with apple honey vinagrette

Even though we've been hit with a beautiful Indian Summer here in New York City, I couldn't resist the siren call of butternut squash while at Trader Joe's last week and whipped up what has quickly become one of my all-time favorite salads. I first served this with the squash still warm from the oven, but it tastes just as great a few days later and cold from being stored in the refrigerator.

How to
Peel 1 butternut squash. Slice in half, remove the seeds and other guts, and cut into small cubes. On a foil-lined cookie sheet (the foil makes for an easy clean-up later on), spread out the squash cubes and coat in extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft and starting to brown. While the squash is roasting, make the dressing. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, the juice from one small lemon, 2 tbsp. honey, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a dash each of cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Whisk or blend (I used my immersion blender) until everything is completely mixed together. The dressing will be a bit frothy, so let it sit in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Add 1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries to the squash for the last five minutes of baking - this will give the cranberries a nice warm plumpness. On a large dinner plate, place 2-3 large handfuls of leafy green (I used a spinach and spring greens mix). Add the roasted vegetables and a large spoonful of feta cheese, toss with the dressing. Add walnuts if desired!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

365-photo-a-day - September wrap-up

coffee on the balc - up in the air - sandwich time - sunset over astoria - grant's tomb - happy feet
rehearsal dinner - flower power - san gennaro - new kitchen table - b/w portland - congrats
old friends - new beer - tiny windows - big buildings - outdoor performance - leafy greens
citi field - old men - lemons - testing the lights - then I saw sting - beach day
stylish feet - go mets - upstate - holler for challah - macro - northwest latte

Technically (according to the rules of this project), September was my most successful month to date. With only about three exceptions, I managed to take almost one photo a day that I was proud of AND that reflected my actions and events of that particular day. Though that was and still is the original intention and goal of my 365 project, I've rarely been able to actually achieve this due to frequent long work hours, uninteresting backgrounds, overcast skies, yada yada yada. But September? She came through for me ;)

Granted, I had a lot of opportunities to get said photos. My travel extravaganza continued for three more weekends, taking me to Buffalo, Portland Oregon, and an island resort off the coast of Florida. Work was also at a minimum, so I had ample time to wander the sunny gardens, parks, and streets of New York and bask in the city's late summer light.

Unfortunately though, I fear this trend is not going to last into October. My trophy wife training time off from work has come to an end, and I'm staring down the barrel of some really long days. But (and I say this every month), that'll be the challenge - to find those photographable moments in and amongst the daily grind. I'm in the home stretch for this project, and I can't wait to see what these last three months will bring ;)

September by the numbers:
Pictures of food or drink: 7
Pictures of my feet/shoes: 2
Pictures with people: 3
Pictures of the sky: 6
Pictures of flowers or nature: 4

365/Photo-a-day is a personal undertaking to capture one photograph per day in 2013. All photos were taken by me and processed with Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoToaster, and/or the new A Beautiful Mess app. The images were compiled using Picture Collage Maker Lite. What to see my pics as they happen? Follow me - @maspad on Instagram!