The Armory Show at 100

the armory show in 1913

In 1913, a group of artists organized a giant exhibition in New York City of 1400 contemporary works of art: The Armory Show. The new and modern art styles represented — abstraction, cubism, futurism — shocked the country and made The Armory Show a major event in the history of art.

If I was given a time machine and told to pick one event to visit in the past, The Armory Show would be a very tempting destination.


So, I was excited when I discovered that the New York Historical Society would be celebrating the 100th anniversary of The Armory Show with a new exhibition containing 100 of the works from the original show, plus commentary and ephemera from the period. The show was smaller than I was expecting, but still extremely fascinating. My favorite paintings were the two seen above: arguably the most famous Armory Show painting, Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, and Robert Henri’s Figure in Motion. The two nudes demonstrate the wide range of styles represented by The Armory Show. Duchamp’s painting shook up the world. People were so confused and defensive about it in 1913! So wild.


Of course, I procrastinated and didn’t go to see the show until its second to last weekend. It was still crowded, but I was delighted by my first visit to the NY Historical Society. It is a beautiful museum. In edition to special exhibits, the museum has a huge collection of New York City artifacts. You can browse more than 40,000 objects within the visible storage system of the Luce Center. If you like old things and exploring a “cabinet of curiosities” style museum, you will enjoy the NYHS. I loved it!!


Sadly, The Armory Show at 100 exhibition has closed. But you can still buy the awesome, giant exhibition catalogue. Want to learn more about The Armory Show of 1913 right now? Check out this awesome site from the Smithsonian Archive of American Art.

leopard coats & linoleum

I spontaneously decided that I NEEDED to rearrange our bedroom today. I think the process was successful, but more interesting was my discovery of two old LIFE magazines from 1948. Above is an image of the October 18th, 1948 issue’s cover story spread on New Fur Coats. You could purchase a (super-cute) leopard fur coat in 1948! Wild!

The Tampax ad on the left reads:

“Look to the girls at college for a preview of things to come. These youngsters are tradition-free, so their ideas and their ways are fresh and stimulating to others. …Take the case of Tampax.”

Those college girls and their newfangled ways!

I think I grabbed the magazines from the trash pile when we went to visit Travis’ Grandma Johnson after his grandfather passed away. I am glad I did. They are fascinating. SO packed full of advertisements! Mostly the ads are for liquor, cigarettes, canned vegetables, hand lotion, the modern wonder of linoleum, and nylons. Lots of nylons and stockings. And foundations. Including one “camisole” from Springmaid Fabrics that will help you “avoid dancer’s diaphoresis and the steatopygic stance,” which I think means it helps with excessive sweating and a fat butt.

In addition to the season’s latest fur fashions, the issue also includes profiles of Lena Horn, Laurence Olivier, and Karl Marx, plus a photographic essay on Vienna, and an article exploring “How Livable is a Modern House?” There is also an editorial regarding the presidential race between Dewey and Truman, titled Dewey Promises the Most Effective Use of Our Goodwill and Power:

“With the election only two weeks away Thomes E. Dewey looks like a shoo-in for the presidency. Since LIFE views the prospect with general satisfaction, the temptation is strong to let the inevitable happen without editorial prodding. Come silence or come shouts, the arithmetic of the ballot box will probably remain the same.”

My other favorite quote comes from the lead-in to an article about the naughty cartoons of Sam Cobeam:

“Ever since women took to wearing clothes men have been trying to visualize how they looked without them. As an international, nonseasonal pastime this pleasant sort of daydreaming has long outranked stamp-collecting, bird-watching and sidewalk-superindtending.”

Actually, I could quote the whole issue. …But I don’t have to because Google Books has the whole thing archived online. View it here. I may spend the rest of my evening taking a trip back in time…

(p.s. As I write this, I am also watching Bing Crosby in 1954’s White Christmas. I guess I am in a mid-century type of mood.)

pride is the word

By now I hope you already know (because if you are getting your news from me, you might be in trouble) that New York State passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage — a huge step in marriage equality and human rights. What an awesome and happy achievement!

When the bill passed on Friday night I was eating pasta with Team in Training friends (Becca, Jessica, Travis, me, and Brian in the photo above) in preparation for a race in the morning — the Front Runners New York Lesbian and Gay Pride Run, to be specific. We all cheered and treated ourselves to more carbs. We had already planned to run the race on Saturday morning, but it felt really good to have a concrete way to celebrate marriage equality.

I truly felt proud to show my support for a cause that I believe in whole-heartedly. It was such a great race and jubilant day! I did my best to keep up with my reluctant TNT pacer and friend, Larry (seen to the right), and we ran hand-in-hand across the finish line like the two goofballs that we are. Everyone got rainbow popsicles at the finish line. Then we all went to brunch. Then we went to Shake Shack for shakes. A Saturday in NYC doesn’t get much better!

The passage of the marriage equality bill makes me happy for infinite reasons, and one of those reasons is that it shows that change can happen. It can take a long time, it can be very difficult, but we CAN work to shape our government and our country.

I do not get overly political on the internet. Mostly because I work extremely hard to stay positive. I have no desire to add to the constant negativity, hurtfulness, and criticism that seems to be unending online. I do appreciate the importance of critical thinking and constructive criticism, but I personally choose to try to emphasize the positive when possible. Probably this positivity comes across as simple-minded to some, but even though it is sometimes hard to resist, you will not (hopefully) find me ranting on politicians I do not like. Instead I’d like to celebrate the things I do support… like my president… my governor… and marriage equality in New York! woohoo!

Mutter Museum

My emphasized area of study in my grad program was “museum studies.” I learned a lot about museum operations and exhibition design. Contemporary exhibition design practices call for elaborate interactive exhibit sets that engage users in a variety of ways — kind of like Disney Land, but with educational components. We learned all about the importance of incorporating auditory, visual, and hands-on elements in each exhibit so that all learning types would feel welcome. One professor even went so far as suggesting olfactory elements (yes, smells) to entice viewers. (smellers?) We learned that nobody wants to visit a museum that just has a bunch of “old stuff” and long description labels on display… no one, that is, except me.

For me, the only reason to go to a museum is to see things you can’t normally see and learn things that you can’t normally learn. I love authentic “old stuff” and detailed scholarship. I am the type of person who actually tries to read all of the panels of object descriptions in a museum. I am so intrigued by the notion of cabinet of curiosities that it borders on obsession. The Mutter Museum, in Philadelphia, is something of a medical cabinet of curiosities that has been maintained and displayed for over 200 years.

The Mutter Museum is an arm of theThe College of Physicians of Philadelphia, founded in 1787 and the oldest professional medical organization in the country. The Museum was originally organized in 1858 using the personal medical collection of Thomas Dent Mutter, a professor of surgery at Jefferson Medical College. It was originally intended to be a teaching library for medical students, but as its collection grew (now with more than 25,000 objects) the museum moved into its current larger building and was opened to the public.

The museum collection contains everything from medical instruments and wax models to fluid-preserved anatomic specimens and skeletons. There is a collection of over 139 human skulls, shrunken heads, and even preserved fetuses. It is intense.

I was very much looking forward to visiting the Mutter Museum and was afraid I had hyped it too much in my own head, but it did not disappoint. I am very interested in things relating to health and medicine and I am glad I got to visit the museum with my brother, who is nearly done with medical school. He explained many things as we spent four hours touring the exhibits.

We were intrigued by the iron lung on display (and the fact that, as of 2008, there were still 30 patients still using them) and we took our time at the exhibit on criminal and forensic pathology. We weren’t as excited about the collection of animal skulls, but the human skulls were mesmerizing. I learned a lot about tumors and infections from the collection of disturbing wax models, and I was stunned by the pieces of tanned human skin. I am glad that we saved the section about genetic abnormalities for last because the preserved fetuses made me very sad and worried about the health of my own future children… I told you, it was intense.

In school we endlessly debated the ethical questions surrounding museum collections. (Like, should museums retain items taken from other cultures? And, who gets to decide what is museum worthy and what is not?) The questions get even more complicated when you are dealing with actual human remains. Some believe that displaying human body parts is disrespectful or even religiously blasphemous, and I am sure that the Mutter Museum has received its fair share of criticism.

Personally, I am thrilled that the Mutter exists for laypeople like myself who want to learn more about medicine and take more responsibility for their own bodies and health. I definitely rely on doctors as the experts, but I also want to be as educated as possible when it comes to my health. I am so glad that the Mutter has preserved their historic collection so that the humans whose bodies are represented in the collection can continue to educate visitors. Of course, many of the humans who are included in the collection did not get to decide whether or not to donate their remains… which is where things get tricky. So, for future reference, I am putting this in writing: I want to donate my body to science, education, and/or art.

Overall, the Mutter Museum was an amazing and somewhat overwhelming experience. I learned a lot about what can go wrong with the human body and also about man’s attempt to fix those problems. I definitely recommend the museum to anyone who is open to viewing human remains.

If you are interested in the Mutter Museum, check out their website or follow them on Twitter. Photography is not allowed in the museum, but occasionally professional photographers are allowed to interpret the museum through their camera lens. You can see some of those photos here. The Mutter also has an incredible museum store. It includes commissioned fine art and craft items, plus unique gift items exclusively created for the museum using images from the collections. I ended up buying quite a few things, including the fine art photography book.

marathon of yesteryear

I know this blog has been Running Central lately, and I apologize if I have gone overboard on the exercise-theme. I had wanted to scan the pages from this old scrapbook, but my scanner was sacrificed in the move to NY, so I took photos instead. They are a little wonky, but will have to do. I am running out of time before my current marathon adventure will be ending… so, without further ado, let’s travel back in time to a marathon long, long ago…

2010 marathon scrapbook cover

It was the year 2000. I was 19. I had just finished my first year of college and simultaneously trained for a marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training. My friend Jody joined the team with me. Well, I think I actually joined it with her…

We went to college in Lamoni, Iowa, but the closest TNT team was in Des Moines, over an hour away. Jody was kind enough to drive us there for our meetings and Saturday practices. That is us above at the very first info meeting on February 17th, 2000. (Fun fact: There is a bag sitting next to me in that photo that I still take to practice today!)

These are photos from our first 20 mile practice run on April Fools Day, 2000. I ran with a woman named Carrie at most of the practices. My 19-year-old self thought all of the women on the team were so old… ugh. They were probably all younger than I am now…. teenagers are so judgemental!

On April 29th, 2000, we ran the Drake Relays half marathon. I think that was the best race of my life. I finished in 2:07 (you can still find my results here under Rachel Lamble) and got 5th in my age group. Nice. Then, on June 3rd, we left for San Diego for the Rock N Roll Marathon!

That year, Team In Training raised $12.5 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. (I just learned that the NYC marathon team alone has raised over $1 million in 2010.) The pasta party the night before the race was inspiring!

These are photos from the morning of the race. All I remember is being extremely nervous and not wanting to finish a full bagel because it had too many calories… but I did it anyway and ate a banana. I was so dumb when it came to food. I don’t think I ate anything at all during the race…

I carried a disposable camera with during the race – a disposable FILM camera. (These were the days before digital. I didn’t even HAVE a cell phone.) I was so glad that I had the camera with me, though. I remember being blown away by the number of people in the race. The group of runners stretched for miles! (There were 21,000 runners in that race – there will be twice that number in the NYC marathon this year!) We ran along the ocean, on the highways, and through Balboa Park. It was beautiful.

This is my bib and official portrait. I carried a photo of Travis with me while I ran (we were so in love!) and people thought he was my honor patient…

Finally the finish line. I had broken down at about mile 22. I stopped and cried and had to walk. It was disappointing. One of my teammates found me (I can’t even remember his name now, isn’t that awful?!) and we ran the rest of the race together. Having a team out there with you really makes it so much more fun. I don’t know if I could do a marathon without Team in Training.

It was so awesome to cross the finish line! They give you medals and blankets and bags of loot. I remember I was most impressed by the giant size bottles of Fiji water that they were handing out. (Designer bottled water was new to me.)

I finished the marathon in 5:09:11. (You can search the official results here.) I was disappointed because I had wanted to get in under five hours, but finishing the race still felt like a huge accomplishment!

So… that is the story of my first marathon. In some ways it feels so long ago, and then in other ways the memories feel so vivid. It was definitely one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Just thinking about how much fun it was makes me feel even more excited about running the NYC marathon!

Queens & the World’s Fair

Visiting the Unisphere in Queens

Travis and I traveled to Queens yesterday for the Makers Faire in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. I am working on a full article about the Faire for – so stay tuned for that! – but I was completely fascinated by the park in general and felt compelled to do some research when we got home.

Queens is the second most populated NYC borough (after Brooklyn) and it is the most diverse county in the entire country. Nearly half of Queens residents are foreign born and over 130 different languages are spoken in the borough. Pretty amazing! The 7 line of the NY subway system has been deemed the “International Express,” a national living heritage trail recognized for its importance to American immigrant history. I wish I could say we took the 7 out to Queens, but instead we hired a car…

1964 NY World's Fair

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was the site of the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World’s Fairs, previous to which it was a dumping ground for ashes. I am so fascinated by the World’s Fairs. It just seems so crazy that these entire huge complexes were created and now there is almost nothing left…

The 1964 NY World’s Fair had the theme “Peace through Understanding” and it was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe” – very Space Age. (NASA and the Department of Defense both sponsored exhibits.) You can view original photos of many of the Fair exhibits in this postcard collection, like the Tower of Light and the The Plaza of Astronauts. All of the exhibits seem so optimistic and triumphant – and they REALLY liked utilizing the wondrous material of concrete!

Queens Hall of Science

The Unisphere (the world’s largest global structure, rising 140 feet and weighing 700,000 pounds) is the most recognizable relic of the Fair, but a few other structures remain. The Queens Museum of Art, The Hall Of Science (seen above), the super-weird Terrace on the Park, which was the Fair’s helipad, and the Queens Theater in the Park are all structures built for the fair that are still in use today.

NY Fair relics

In my opinion, the most interesting remnant from the NY World’s Fair is the now derelict NY State Pavilion (seen in the left hand photo above, and in its original state in the postcard below). The NY State Pavilion — or the “Tent of Tomorrow” — was the largest exhibit in the Fair. It was designed by famed modernist architect Philip Johnson, sponsored by Texaco, and decorated by relatively unknown artists of the time, including Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol!! It contained three separate structures, a fiberglass covered pavilion with a tiled state map of NY (which is said to have cost one million dollars at the time!), three observation towers with elevators, and a circular theater (now the home of the Theater in the Park).

NY State Pavilion at the World's Fair

The pavilion area and the observation towers have been left to deteriorate for the past 50 years and the result is a strange and eerie structure that could be used in a movie about the desolate, dystopian wasteland of the future. I wish I could get in them and explore! It just seems so incredibly sad to me that these structures were the best and most innovative creations of their time and now they are abandoned and forgotten. I wish I could travel back in time just to see what the World’s Fairs were like… of course, I shouldn’t romanticize history too much. I have been to Epcot in Orlando, and I assume that it is similar to the World’s Fairs — full cultures and societies condensed into happy, cheery, stereotyped exhibits.

Queens is such a culturally rich and historically interesting place — I wish more could be done to tell its story! I definitely plan to explore it more and at least check out the Queens Museum of Art. What else should I add to my Queens Site Seeing List?