April 14, 2011

Helen Levitt Photography

So last week I was given an assignment to visit the University of Utah Fine Arts Museum and fill out a questionnaire. This trip would count as class time so we were able to take an evening off.

Well, I kind of was dreading it.

I know, right? I'm an artist, I should love doing this kind of stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I've been to my fair share of art museums including The Metropolitan in NYC, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Seattle Art Museum. I have gone mostly during field trips and when I travel. The visit in Seattle was just because I was feeling "Artsy in Seattle" with my original Starbucks coffee in hand and wanted to drag my non-artsy husband to see how he would do. He said it was a little "too foo-foo" for him.... typical.

I do enjoy visits to art museums for the most part, but I just never think of going for fun. I find some of it even boring and disturbing... like those dark rooms with a video playing along with some creepy music, or a large mound of dirt that's supposed to resemble something... that stuff weirds me out and I just don't get it.

So, I actually tried to cheat and see if I could Google the answers to the questionnaire. I know... like seriously how lazy can I get? Well, I was doing really well until I got to the last question which asked me to pick two pieces from the African collection and explain how they made me feel.


Couldn't really get around that one, so I had to go, and I convinced my friend to go with me. I told her I had to hop into this one section for a half hour, tops, and then we could go shopping for the real entertainment.

So we went. We started off nonchalant, making silly jokes and laughing out loud. Then, when we really started observing, there was a silence and we became totally enthralled by all of the creations around us. We got done with the African collection and instead of leaving, we just kept going.

I ended up being truly touched by the Helen Levitt Photography exhibit. When I initially looked around at the combination of black and white photographs I went through them quickly... after all, these were just ordinary people living on the streets of New York City going about their ordinary lives.

I was about halfway through when I realized the point of her work. This was not intended to be glamorous, flashy, or extravagant. This was real life in the 1930's and 1940's captured in simple moments: the children playing in the streets, drawing with chalk, splashing about in the fire hydrant water, sometimes laughing, sometimes serious. The business men going to work. The women dressing up in their fancy dresses. The wise elderly faces. Every day moments that are easily overlooked were in the spotlight.

It reminded me of my own childhood. I didn't grow up under rich circumstances and I was perfectly content wandering around in my backyard, inventing games, talking to myself, picking the raspberry bushes, collecting rocks, catching fireflies, walking around barefoot, coming inside with grass stained knees, and living off a natural high on life.

The photos reminded me that it doesn't matter what possessions you have, what neighborhood you live in, how big your house is... we all live under the same sky, we all see the moon and the stars at night, and we all look to find contentment within our means whether they are big or small. Although these ordinary people might have been poor, dirty, tired, and worn out... they were happy to be alive.

And oh, the humor behind the photographs... some of these just made me laugh out loud!

{all photos via the old photo album}

There is something refreshing about seeing artwork. It humbles you. It puts things into perspective, and whether it is conscious or not, you feel something. It's fascinating seeing the endless possibilities, the emotions, the inconceivable talent and genius, and just being in the presence of pure creativity... there's something about a trip to the museum that is unlike anything else. It's seeing and appreciating the artistic nature of the human mind.

Needless to say, I'm glad I decided to go and actually do the assignment honestly... and I suggest you all make a visit to your local museum one of these spring afternoons :)

P.S. Couple things coming soon...

1. Photos from my new and improved Office/Bedroom!
2. Giveaway to one lucky reader... details to come :)
3. Andy Warhol inspired school project to be completed next week
4. Semi-professional photography of myself to be added
5. New blog design (this may take a while, but it will be in the works!)

P.P.S. I may not be blogging as much this weekend because my Mamacita is in town and I haven't seen her since July! I hope you all have nice sunny spring weather wherever you are and enjoy your weekends! :)


  1. So glad you ended up having a good time at the museum! I really love the photographs you posted; wish I could go to an awesome museum, but there really aren't very many close enough to me. Can't wait to see what you come up with for your new blog design :)

  2. These photographs are pretty amazing! It's so neat to see life back then...and kids will always be the same, no matter what!

  3. sometimes i'm in a museum mood and sometimes i'm just NOT.. there's no in between really. the photo of the kids that climbed up onto that really tall door frame is terrifying! .. other than that, i agree.. pretty great stuff! (i actually really like that photo.. but it's so, so scary!)

    I can't believe what happened to sam!!! oh my gosh! i'm so sorry :( poor baby. he doesn't need surgery, right? just rest? i hope no surgery.. not fun. hope he's feeling better soon!

  4. A great post Kristen. I always find photos of times past fascinating. Trying to figure out what was different, and yet the same about people of the time compared to now. Particularly, if you go back further in time, people tend to seem almost alien in a way, and yet they had to have had the same type of thoughts, emotions, and aspirations, as anyone today would have. I wish someone would finally build a time machine. Anyway, I'm glad you got more out of your museum trip than bargained for. Oh, and I can relate to almost everything you mentioned as you were recounting your youth, particularly catching fireflies which brought back a flood of fond memories. That's just what we did on a warm summer night back then. Duh!....such good times.

  5. Well you don't have to tell everyone, but I love museums. I am humbled by the story behind every masterpiece.
    And the Nostalgic photographs are awesome!
    The fun times then are completely different from the fun times now.
    Sigh ...

  6. Those photos are great, I love the first three :) Say hi to you mom for me!

  7. Just how freakin' awesome is my daughter right?!!! You are crazy funny, creative, imaginative, studious and fabulous...love you...see you sooooo soon. Mwah!!!

  8. Those are awesome. They'd look so great on a wall!! I love photography. Hope your weekend is great :)

  9. So happy to have stumbled on your blog--not only am I a Gemini, I'm also a graphic design "student" (I'm not in a degree program, but I take classes when I can at RISD...I just finished a photography class and I took a web design class this winter!). I couldn't get over these photographs you shared...as an American Studies major, I love snapshots of real life. As it was. Not posed. Just natural. I am so happy you shared her photos! Hoep you have a fabulous weekend with your Mamacita! xoxo {av}

  10. Wow, seriously beautiful photography! And yes, it does ring of childhood memories, doesn't it? I remember as a child playing out on the streets, tooling around with friends, miss those days <3

  11. Ha! That's really cool! I love how her photos make you feel like you're right there playing with the kids.

  12. ♥nice post.)) love your blog♥

  13. I love going to the museum!! but you totally remind me of ME when I was studying, I tried to get out of EVERYTHING by googling ;)

    Have a wonderful time with your momma! Can't believe it's almost been a year since you've seen her. Enjoy this special time!!!!!!!!!!

  14. hello beautiful lady :) at first i thought too bad that you had to go, but like you said it all ended up being worth it! these photographs are absolutely stunning, and i completely see the direction of them like you referenced yourself.

    yes, we are all under the same sky...i love this by the way :) that saying is so very true...if we all realized this, i think there would be a lot more happiness, less stress and more importantly unity!


    ps can't wait to see all of these new things going on around here. andy warhol (sweet) photos of you (super sweet) and new blog design (heck yeah!!!) hope you had a great weekend xoxo


Hey friends! Thank you for taking time out of your day to keep up with my ramblings :) Although I read every single comment I'm not always able to reply, so if you have any specific questions please feel free to send me an email. Thanks and have a lovely day! xo