Utica 7/17/2021 - 7/20/2021
Craig, Tyson, and David at the Keith Haring exhibit at the Fenimore Museum
PrologueWhen Tyson found out that there would be a Keith Haring exhibit at the Fenimore Museum (where we saw a Herb Ritts exhibit 2 years ago), he suggested we take a road trip out to visit him and David in Utica, timed to coincide with the museum exhibit. We always love visiting them, and this was the perfect excuse. We planned it so that we would be there for the most part when David didn't have to work.
As the time approached, Tyson made plans to visit high school friends in Lunenburg a week and a half prior. After visiting Lunenburg, he visited us at our house for four days. Within the course of two weeks, that meant I was able to spend 8 days with one of my besties! It was so nice after 18 months of seeing absolutely nobody!
Saturday 7/17/2021 - Arrival, Dinner at Michael T'sWe left the house right on schedule at 11 a.m., listened to an audiobook of Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost along the way, and arrived in Utica shortly before 4 p.m. David was at work, but we were welcomed by Tyson, Roxy the boxer, and Spooky the cat.
We chatted and enjoyed a drink before heading out to Michael T's restaurant (owned by David's family) for our 6 p.m. reservation. We sat at the bar where David was bartending. Craig had an IPA and I had a Moscow mule. Craig and Tyson each got the prime rib (a Saturday night special), and I got the Veal Trunfio, which I recalled with fondness from our last visit to Michael T's. We got to chat with David, and it was great to see him after two years. I couldn't resist a chocolate chip cookie sundae for dessert.
After dinner, we went back to the house, relaxed in the living room, and listened to some music. When David got home from work, we chatted until it was time for bed.
Sunday 7/18/2021 - Keith Haring and Ansel AdamsWe had delicious chocolate croissants and coffee for breakfast before Tyson drove the four of us to Cooperstown to the Fenimore Art Museum to see their Keith Haring exhibit. It was pouring rain. We ate at the cafe (Craig and I had turkey wraps and Deep River potato chips) and sat outside under the patio roof to eat.
We went to the Keith Haring exhibit, "Radiant Vision" which was in the downstairs gallery. We learned that Haring's career spanned a mere 10 years before his untimely death in 1990 at age 31 from AIDS. Haring's career and recognition took off in the early 1980's when he produced chalk drawings in the NYC subway. They would paper over expired subway billboards with black paper, and Haring thought that these were just crying out to be drawn upon. There were two of these subway drawings on display at the museum. It was very interesting to see this ephemeral art preserved; it is a wonder that they still exist, given that the paper had to be peeled off of the billboards.
The majority of items in the exhibit were lithographs, silkscreens, or posters, in stark black and white or in striking primary colors, depicting the visual vocabulary of iconography for which Haring is famous. Some were even embossed white on white. Images of dogs, babies, aliens, pyramids, televisions, and crucifixes adorned the walls. Many of the works had social justice themes, such as anti-Apartheid, anti-crack, and the directive to fight AIDS and the stigmas surrounding it.
We saw the iconic "Very Special Christmas" album cover art (stylized Madonna and child), as well as the "Apocalypse Suite", a collaboration with William Burroughs.
There were items from Haring's NYC Pop Shop, where he made his art accessible to all by emblazoning it on T-shirts, Swatch watches, inflatable radiant babies, transistor radios, magnets, condom cases, pins, patches, and badges. A quote from Haring on the wall proclaimed "the public has a right to art...art is for everybody." As quoted in the New York Times, Haring has said, "My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art."
There were also drawings which Haring produced in collaboration with a pre-teen named Sean Kalish whom he met at the Pop Shop. He was impressed with the boy's talent, and they produced a series of drawings together in 1989.
Perhaps inspired by this, there was a children's area of the exhibit hall where kids could create with Haring stencils. A family sat at a table happily drawing in the Haring style.
When we were done taking in the Haring exhibit, we went upstairs to what the woman at the ticket desk had referred to as the "Ansel Adams exhibit." We were expecting landscapes of Yosemite, or the Wisconsin dells, but what we found was much more poignant.
The exhibit was called "Manzanar: The War Time Photographs of Ansel Adams." We immediately recognized the name Manzanar as one of the Californian relocation camps where Japanese Americans were "interned" (imprisoned) during World War II. I had done some research about the so-called internment camps as part of my Asian American literature seminar in college.
It turns out the Ansel Adams spent time in Manzanar in 1943 with the goal of photographing the inhabitants. He wanted to capture the resilient spirits of these people who had lost everything, including their freedom, simply because of bigotry and baseless suspicion.
At the start of exhibit was a poster announcing the relocation/imprisonment of the Japanese Americans, instructing them where to report and what they could bring with them. They could bring sheets and pillows, clothing, and plates, cups, and flatware. Absolutely no pets. Ten thousand men, women, and children were imprisoned in Manzanar.
Adams' black and white photos show many aspects of life at the camp, as the residents tried their best to go about their lives under these conditions. There were baseball games, people working in woodshops or welding shops, and family and individual portraits. Adams captured the indomitable spirit of these people in his photos. He also captured the stark landscape of Manzanar, with the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. The final photo of the exhibit showed people with their suitcases preparing to board a minibus to leave Manzanar. What would they encounter after leaving Manzanar? Were they on their way to a more stringent camp like Tule Lake, or would they be trying to return to life as a civilian, having lost everything while interned? It was powerful.
No photography was allowed in the exhibit hall, but the Library of Congress has digitized these photographs, and they are available for download. Adams also published a book of photographs and essays about Manzanar, Born Free and Equal, which is also available digitally from the Library of Congress.
The two exhibits complemented one another quite nicely. There is a strong social justice component to Haring's and Adams' work. As much as we love Adams' landscapes, we found this exhibit profoundly moving, especially in the current zeitgeist.
We drove back to Utica. Then we went with Tyson to Chanatry's (or "Chanat's", in the local vernacular), an old school grocery store featuring cardboard stand-up figures of the Pope, Emeril, Larry Bird, and Buddy the Elf. There we bought their famous "Utica burgers" for dinner.
We went back to the house. Steve came over for drinks and appetizers (prepared by David) in between helping his stepson move. We had cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, pepperoni cheese, tortilla chips with salsa verde, and crackers.
For dinner, Tyson grilled ribs, Utica burgers with bacon and cheese, and zucchini. He also made salt potatoes, and David made pasta salad. It was all delicious, but we had no room for dessert (the fruit gallette Tyson had baked).
After dinner, we had many laughs as we watched "Polyester" on blu-ray. It was so humid that the wooden front door swelled and stuck, and the large plate glass in the door broke when they tried to close up for the night.
Monday 7/19/2021 - Lock 20We had coffee and Tyson made breakfast sandwiches on bagels for himself and Craig. I was still too full from last night's dinner, but I did have one delicious bite. Today was the first sunny day since we had arrived, and it was quite warm.
We went to Lowe's to look at front doors. Then we went to Lock 20 State Canal Park on the Erie Canal in the neighboring town of Marcy. The lock was built in 1822 on the Erie Canal, to link Albany to Buffalo at Lake Erie. There was a walkway above the lock so that you could cross the canal. It was cool to see the mechanisms that power the lock. It was a beautiful area and we probably would have hung out longer had it not been quite so hot and in the direct sun.
On the way home, we stopped at the new Muju International Grocery store. They were very friendly and had a bunch of cool items. We spent a while here perusing the shelves, and I bought some jerk seasoning, garlic plantain chips, cookies, a can of bubble tea, and a bag of hibiscus tea flowers. They also were giving away complimentary sustainable disposable plates made from betel nut leaves.
We went back to the house and Tyson and I had some leftover ribs and zucchini while we watched "Judge Judy". We went for a walk in Tyson's garden.
Craig and I stayed home with the pets while Tyson and David got their hair cut. Then we went out to Tavolo's for dinner. I had a sangria and Craig had an IPA. Craig got the diablo pizza which has Utica long hot peppers on it. I had the Salsiccia pizza, which had sausage and carmelized onions.
We went back to the house, listened to music, and David and I had some room for the gallette with whipped cream! It was a delicious pastry that Tyson had baked with cherries and home-grown rhubarb and black currants.
Tuesday 7/20/2021 - DepartureWe said our goodbyes and thanks to Tyson and David. It had been a lovely stay and it was great to get to get to spend so much time with both of them. And as always, they are excellent hosts. After stopping for gas, we left Utica at around 11:30 a.m. We didn't hit any traffic until we got to route 128. We arrived home shortly before 4 o'clock with no stops. When we got home we ate our leftover Tavolo's pizza and we had leftover gallette in the evening.
Steph and Craig at the Keith Haring exhibit
Craig with Medusa Head by Keith Haring
Keith Haring art
Keith Haring subway art (left), Untitled 1982 (right)
Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Tsurutani and baby Bruce, Manzanar Relocation Center, California (Ansel Adams, courtesy of Library of Congress)
Hidimi Tayenaka (woodworker), Manzanar Relocation Center, California (Ansel Adams, courtesy of Library of Congress)
Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center (Ansel Adams, courtesy of Library of Congress)
Loading bus, leaving Manzanar for relocation, Manzanar Relocation Center, California (Ansel Adams, courtesy of Library of Congress)
Steph and Craig at Lock 20 on the Erie Canal
Lock 20, Erie Canal
Dinner at Tavolo