Manhattan might be one of the world’s greatest arts centers, but some of New York’s best cultural landmarks lay in the far reaches of the outer boroughs. This week, I made a trip all the way out to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Flushing, Queens, which proved to be one of the most interesting places in New York that I’ve been in my five years here. The park is also home to the Queens Museum of Art. In the final post of this series, we’ll take a look at part three of the city-wide exhibit “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” on display there.
Much like the museums before it, the exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art is split up into two main thematic sections: Kingdoms of this World and Fluid Motions. Kingdoms of this World focuses on the variety of people, languages, art forms, and religious influences that co-exist and intermingle in the Caribbean, resulting in a sort of “carnival” aesthetic; both protection and transformation of the self amidst so many cultural identities becomes necessary. The artists in this section attempt to represent this, interpreting the ways in which people living in this multicultural region use both transformation and camouflage as an expression of their own cultural identity. The following section, Fluid Motions, takes a geographical approach to its look at the Caribbean region. The works here examine the significance of water in the Caribbean’s history and how it has shaped the geopolitical structures of the area. No doubt, island nations face particular political challenges due to their geography. The exchange of goods, services, as well as travel, must occur by sea, and until the invention of the wireless signal, the same could even be said of information. Water becomes a primary source of revenue, making it something worth defending.
In his work Waiting for the Enemy, artist Glexis Novoa explores the political realities created by having a border surrounded by water. A drawing of graphite on marble slate, it features a shoreline observation tower, topped with communication antennas. Across the water in the distance sits a city skyline. Where the viewer’s attention is immediately drawn, however, is the lens of this tower. Instead of a camera or viewing window, inside sits a giant eye, staring directly back at the viewer. The effect is eerie, and in looking at the work I was torn between looking away and staring back. The work forces you to consciously make this decision, coercing you into interacting with it; whatever you decide though, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re being watched. This, of course, is the intent when considered in context of the work’s setting. This is a nation keeping constant watch over its borders, and the suggestion seems to be that the water border fosters a sense of big-brother paranoia – the interesting geographical position of these countries make them particularly vulnerable.
It might seem like a big commitment to get out there, but the Queens Museum of Art is well worth the trip. In addition to the exhibition, it houses an awe-inspiring, detailed, 9,000 square foot model of New York City which you could literally spend hours looking at; furthermore, the museum sits on the grounds of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, home to many famous landmarks like the towering Unisphere, the New York State Pavilion, Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the New York Hall of Science. With all there is to see at the museum, there is even more to see in the area, making for an excellent day-trip. Leave early, pack a lunch, and bring a camera – you’ll want to spend a lot of time here. Admission to the Queens Museum of Art is free for students with a valid CUID through CUArts’ Passport to New York program.
Berkley Todd, TC ’13