New York Trip Reflections

Empire State Building as seen from Top of the Rock

Image via Wikipedia

Reflections that I’m submitting to the school. Personal thoughts not included, naturally.

On this trip we visited several museums, and I immensely enjoyed most of them. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art’s 19th- and 20th-century wings as well as the Guggenheim’s 19th-century collections were all of great interest to me. I am one of those people who can spend hours in front of a classical sculpture or painting; one who believes that art’s highest purpose is to bring beauty to the world. It is quite an old-fashioned view, I suppose, but it could be argued that beauty exists in different forms and thus my maxim encompasses all kinds of art from old to new. Thus I spent many happy hours in these museums sketching and just taking in the skill of the works. Before leaving for New York I had already tentatively tried out oil paints after being inspired by some contemporary illustrators who worked in oil. Now I am further convinced that I would like to work in a traditional style using oil paints for my art ILP this year.

I was not very fond of the modern art museums such as MoMA PS1 and the New Museum because the works there came with little or no explanations/wall text, making them hard to understand. Some of the works there were just plain strange or “vulgar” by today’s standards as well. However after thinking about this for a while I decided that our reactions to these works now would be akin to how critics reacted to new, experimental styles of art that started emerging in the 19th century like Impressionism or Fauvism. Back then works in these styles were regarded as vulgar and almost blasphemous. Now we wonder how such masterpieces could ever be derided and say that critics of that time were too stuffy and conservative. And yet now I was acting like one of these conservative critics when faced with new art forms, because I had been raised to believe that the works of the Old Masters were the ultimate form of beauty. I decided that I should not be too closed-minded and disparage a work just because it offended my sensibilities.

After visiting the Empire State Building, I accidentally took one of their audio guide machines with me. This incident was quite embarrassing but on the plus side it made me become much more careful and alert when we visited other places of interest. Speaking of alertness, I feel I did quite a good job of taking care of my personal belongings and being sharp. Even though I was sleeping most of the time when we took the subway and a bit zoned-out due to jet lag, I made sure to stay near the group and stay cautious of suspicious strangers like a tout who offered us a ride back to our hostel one night after we finished a sightseeing cruise.

Some of the others on the trip wanted to spend all the available time shopping, which I think is the wrong attitude. After all, the main aim of the trip was not to shop but to learn more about the cultures of the world. The shoppers probably felt I was a bit of a spoilsport in this regard but my reasoning is why fly to the other side of the world just to buy something you can get for pretty much the same price back home? It’s not as if the product is any better – even a Made in America or Japan tag doesn’t guarantee quality nowadays. Standing in between two towers made of melting white chocolate in an installation, now that’s something more intimately tied to the experience of being overseas.