Thursday, December 13, 2012

Come for the Fun, Stay for the Art: Night at The Asia Society

Valerie's Trip to the Post Office

Last week we went to the Asia Society intending to enjoy their holiday party - which we did - but we also wound up seeing an engrossing art exhibition by Lin Tianmiao, one of China's premier female artists. Words like "dark" and "brooding" and "portentous" characterize her work, which is deeply psychological, and not easily explained. A lot of Lin's work comes out of a childhood spent sewing and winding thread, which she found to be oppressive. Today, Lin continues to do a lot of sewing and thread winding, and the way she transforms those childhood tasks and incorporates them into her art is both fascinating and discomfiting.

We both fell in love with the high-collared dress below, one of several in the exhibition, but the dress also appears in a series of videos (a collaboration with her video artist husband), which are riveting, and by turns both dreamlike and vaguely nightmarish.

The Asia Society thoughtfully provided the video below on their website, which gives a nice overview of the exhibition. There's a tiny snippet of the dream/nightmare videos (that's what you see in the still), but not enough. We sat in a darkened room for a good five minutes watching several simultaneous videos, shifting focus frequently to make sure not to miss anything.

If you're in New York, try to see this show. We were lucky to have a docent, who was able to fill us in on a lot of background information, which added an extra dimension to our visit. Try to get a docent-led tour if possible.

Meanwhile, downstairs, there was a party going on. To paraphrase Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, it featured "a few of our favorite things": art, a museum store, jazz band and cocktails. What's not to like? The crowd was a crazy salad of ages, genders and nationalities. The gent in our opening photo told us he was with an Italian circus. Here's a closeup of two of his fabulous rings, one a silver cicada.

In the museum store, we met Harshita Lohia (left) with one of the store's employees.  They are both  modeling her scarfs. They fold flat, but they are three lengths of cloth sewn together to form triangular tubes, which gives them three dimensionality when worn.

This gives you a good idea of the range of designs of Harshita's graphic textiles.

This wonderfully dapper gent also works at the store. First we liked his glasses.

Then we loved his tattoos. He was about to get the last one, to complete the set, on the back of his head.

Here's the jazz quartet who kept the mood light and frothy.

This young couple was enjoying the evening and the crowd.

We admired so many people. Here was one of the women whose hair and outfit we loved. The crowding made it difficult to set up photographs, so we didn't take as many as we would have liked. And we know someone took pictures of us with our cameras, but they have disappeared!

If you stand long enough in one place, you'll run into everyone you know. Valerie ran into her former chiropractor, Alex (far left - former has to do with insurance, not with Alex, who is fabulous).

The gent standing with Alex was wearing a knit cap on which he had chain-stitched Keith Haring characters. The gent was wonderfully obliging and gracious when we asked to photograph his Radiant Baby.

Jean got some Christmas shopping done. Here, Patty Lee is demonstrating and selling her line of wrapping cloths. You can see they're rolled up, and tied with elastic bands ending in spiral balls, a perfect finishing touch to a beautiful product. The Asia Society gift shop was full of creative holiday gifts.

After we exited the party, we headed to one of our favorite diners for our usual late night repast: a BLT (Valerie) and a grilled cheese on whole wheat toast (Jean).

What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing a Maria Del Greco hat with vintage bakelite pin; Topshop jacket; Issey Miyake pants; Trippen boots; black 1950s plastic gumball necklace; vintage black and white polka dot metal earrings; vintage bakelite rings.

Valerie is wearing an unlabeled vintage hat, Issey Miyake vest, Miyake dress and Arche shoes.

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Valerie met her neighbor today in the elevator. Amazingly, he asked if she was celebrating 12/12/12. A fellow celebrant! A short discussion ensued, and he said he was sending all his Christmas cards out today so they would be postmarked 12/12/12. 'What a great idea', said Valerie, who had NO hope of doing the same. 'I hope I get something postmarked 12/12/12', continued her neighbor.
A great fan of interesting numbers, when Valerie arrived in her apartment, she opened a blank Christmas card, wrote on it 'your wish has been granted', and addressed it to her neighbor. Because the card was over the standard weight and size, she put two gorgeous stamps on it - one of Edith Piaf and one of Miles Davis. Then she went to the post office and stood in line for about twenty minutes to make sure the envelope was hand-canceled. A roving postal assistant was helpfully answering questions as people stood on line, making sure they had proper forms, sufficient postage, etc. Valerie asked if she had enough postage, and was assured that she did. 'And if I want it canceled by hand, can you help me with that?', she asked, hopefully. But for that the assistant said she had to continue to stand in line.

When it was her turn, she asked the postal assistant behind the counter to cancel the stamps by hand, to reflect the 12/12/12 date. 'We don't do that anymore', he said, looking her in the eye. Changing the subject to one he liked better, he said 'This is heavy. There's an extra charge for that. What's in here? Electronics?' When he weighed it, he found that no extra postage was required. 'Because it's the holiday, I'll stamp it for you', he said, and he did, with a cancellation stamp that had been on his desk in full view the whole time. Which was great, except that the stamps are black, and the all-important date was on the black stamps, not the white envelope, so the date was illegible. Pressing her luck, Valerie asked if he could do it again where the date would be visible. NO, came the answer. 'I can only do it once. The purpose is to cancel the stamps, not to date the envelope. I can't cancel an empty space. Is there anything else you need today?' He eyed her again.


Now, readers, how many of you have received envelopes with no cancellations at all or a dozen cancellations too many? What do you think would happen to a postal assistant if he put a cancellation on an empty space? Do you think they would send him to jail?

Do you think they would fire him?

Or send him for retraining? Is there a line in the postal assistant handbook that reads 'Don't even think of putting excess cancellations on someone's envelope if you know what's good for you'? Might someone take advantage of his kindness, cutting out the 12/12 postmark and pasting it to an envelope really mailed out on 12/13?

And how many of you have been told your mail 'must be postmarked by [fill in the date]' to be eligible for something or other? If the post office makes black stamps, and cancels them with black ink, how are you supposed to know if you're the million dollar winner or the million dollar loser? (And if you lose on that technicality, can you sue the post office?)

So what did Valerie do? Nothing. If this had been Fedex or UPS, she would have appealed to the manager. But this is the post office, which still has not delivered the birthday card she sent to Jean three weeks ago, with more than enough postage and a return address, and... Oh... because it's the holiday, let's not even go into the other stuff.

Here's to the late, great Ray Heatherton, The Merry Mailman. We miss him.


  1. Oh, I love your posts! This looks like so much fun.

  2. Issey Mikake vest? Glorious cicada ring? Radiant Baby hat? Wow - attendees as spectacular as the event! The art exhibition sounds fantastic - I love how you described the artist's transformation and repurposing of experience.

    Sorry to hear about the clerk's pettiness - that is no fun! Valerie, on the other hand - you are awesome!

  3. So much to adore about this post, so I will just speak to the glorious choice of postage stamps and the kindness of granting a wish. And of course your outfits.