Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Hello! My name is Pauline Tiongson, and I am a recent graduate of the KPU Fine Arts program, earning my Bachelors in Fine Arts-Visual Arts (yay!). I am a multimedia artist, but my main discipline is in painting. Ever since I could remember, I loved making art—whether it was drawing portraits of myself or receiving art sets as a kid, it was what made me the happiest. I joined the KPU NYC/Venice Field School trip for many reasons. After missing out on the Paris Field School trip back in 2012, I told myself that I would go on the next trip, regardless of its location. New York, being the mecca of the art world in North America, is home to many artworks from famous artists. It is also a city rich in art culture, as artists are credited for bringing this richness to the neighborhoods and boroughs across New York. I am also very excited to go to Venice, as I have never been to Italy or Europe (besides flight layovers). And lastly, being with like-minded people who share the same passion as you in the arts would make for a great trip. With these reasons, who would want to miss out on an opportunity like this?
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about New York so far?
I have been to New York a couple times as a kid, but have no memory of it. I was lucky enough to have gone to this city last year for my cousin’s wedding, and I had an instant love and connection to this city. It is very different from Vancouver, as we have a laid-back, nature ambience to the city, whereas New York is known as the city that never sleeps, as it is always on the go. And I think this is why I love it here, because there is always something happening in the city at any time of the day, and its richness is culture is very alluring.
So far on this trip, we were welcomed to “nice” sunny weather. The weather has been hot-humid and a little overwhelming at times. It is a bit hard to focus when sweat is pouring out of you! Walking along the streets of New York has been interesting—especially when you have the occasional New Yorkers making rude comments at you, or shoving you because you were “in their way”. I also forgot about the garbage along the streets (but how could I have forgotten about that? Haha). The stench of the garbage, as well as some parts of the subway or alleyways on a smoldering hot day will make you want to hold your breath for as long as you can! Why do they not mention or show this in movies or books? Besides those, it has been a good trip so far. Everyone in the group is so caring and awesome—we are like a little family who like to look out for each other.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Museum of Modern Art. Who is the artist? When was this work made? What is the content of this work? In what context and as part of what art movement was it made?
I was assigned to research on the Fish Story series by Allan Sekula, an American photographer who was known for his large-scale landscape photographs. The series began in 1988, in which Sekula observed the importance of the sea as a source of transportation for goods, but also brought about the concerns of sea pollution, labour issues, environmental damage and degradation. The wide-angle shots showcases the vast amounts of man-made materials juxtaposed with nature. Some images showcase the faces behind the scenes of it all: the labourers, the people residing along the ports, and the fishermen. I think the work’s content is reflective in the work, especially when it is situated in a space that allows critical understanding of the piece.
After seeing your assigned art work in person (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most, and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it?
Seeing Allan Sekula’s piece in real life was amazing, because you see things that you wouldn’t have noticed in photographs of the work itself. All the details tend to stand out as you stare at it for a long period of time. I was quite surprised with where the series was situated; it was located in a space that I thought was a transitioning area towards a more important piece. That being said, the series did cover a great amount of wall space, and did not have to share wall space with any other artwork. I was quite surprised with the size of the photographs. They were not as big as I thought they would be. I had the assumption that they would be life-size or slightly larger-than-life. The works were also placed in a narrative manner, which I thought was important in understanding the importance of this work. Chapter 1 was only featured in this series, but it’s layout and images were already giving viewers a glimpse as to what the other works might feature. I thought it was great that they gave Sekula a space of his own away from the others, because it brings more importance and meaning to what he was trying to emulate in his work.
Today’s activity was at the Museum of Modern Art in the Midtown Manhattan neighbourhood. What were your impressions of this part of New York after learning about it first in the pre-departure classes? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
Midtown is one of the best neighbourhoods to explore! When people think of landmarks they would like to go in NYC, most of them are located in Midtown. I was so excited to have received Midtown as my location to explore because it was like seeing it with new eyes this year, especially since we walked through areas I have never been to. The neighbourhood is fast-paced, you see the signature yellow taxis everywhere, and the honking and screaming of people are the lasting impressions this area implanted on me. Walking around the area was quite scary at times, specifically for when you are trying to cross the streets. Even if pedestrians have the right-of-way, the drivers are aggressive and will not stop until you move out of their way. While the cities have its negatives, it is still an awesome neighborhood to be in. Who knows, you could even be walking around the area and you might see a celebrity just casually strolling the street.
In MoMA, I was struck and overwhelmed with everything I saw. It was like a dream come true to finally be in this space and see the artworks I have been dying to visit!! The 6 floors were hard to get through in less than 3 hours. But I enjoyed seeing whatever exhibits I was able to visit. One of the best exhibits was on the 5th floor (I think it was the 5th?), where the artworks by Picasso, Klimt, Monet, as well as Van Gogh were waiting to be seen! Walking through that space was like being in a dream. I could not believe I was seeing these works in person and seeing how much larger they are in real life was also the cherry on top! I was so overjoyed on my walk through this area that I had this feeling of endless butterflies in my stomach that would not go away. When I finally go to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889), I just lost it and had tears falling down my face. It was there at MoMA where I felt that being on this trip was worth all the obstacles and stress of the past few months.
One of the best memorable moments on this trip to Midtown for me was our laid back picnic in Central Park, and also when we sat around the benches at Strawberry Field around the John Lennon memorial. I was amazed that even after 35 years, people still come together to this space, decorate the memorial and sit and listen as the singers strum their guitars to music by the Beatles and John Lennon. It was one of those moments that will leave an impression on me. It was such a good day.