Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Project 30

Today I’m launching a new project called Project 30. Below is a condensed artist statement with sample images. You can read the full thing and check out the full project here.

The root of this project starts with my friend Shannon. For her 30th year, Shannon committed to making one Instagram photo per day. I liked the idea of making yourself do something every day which, beyond the normal hygiene and work commitments we make, so few of us truly do. Not a lover of taking pictures on my phone, what could I easily do with my camera where I didn’t have to schlep the heavy DSLR?

Photographing myself during my concussion felt soothing. I liked the way I could manipulate the placement of the camera and put faith in the shutter. That became my idea, documenting myself in this moment of my 30th year.

I started on November 4th, the day after my birthday. I gave myself few guidelines. I wouldn’t edit the photos beyond an occasional crop or lighting fix. There’s no retouching of my face, even on my worst eyebag/zit days (sorry, Mom). And I didn’t want the project to be one more thing I would chide myself for not doing, so some days I forget to photograph myself, too. It became a way to forgive myself for not being perfect because there’s always tomorrow.

To that point I had hardly posted pictures of myself on Instagram--I posted one from far away in 2015, and then not another one until 2017. There were three that year, 17 posts last year, some with multiple images. For the longest time regular selfies and putting pictures of myself on the internet was not an aspect of the culture I sought out. Why should someone need to see my face to know my worth?

But now posting of pictures of oneself online made you culturally relevant. It meant you did something worth seeing (or, that at least you thought was worth seeing). And advertising you had that belief in yourself was a new form of power. By sharing nothing, I was perhaps sharing that I didn’t think I mattered, that I lacked confidence in my own power.

It seemed closed-minded to not participate and I wanted to challenge myself to be involved. More importantly, I wanted to challenge myself to actively express my own faith in myself which, self-deprecating as I am, is not often something I do to people I don’t know well, i.e., those living online.

I also started thinking about self-representation and performance, what we choose to let others see about ourselves and what that says about us. I wanted the project to reflect the truest version of me as much as it could. But I still feel myself sitting a little straighter, raising my chin a little higher, angling my face a certain way to make sure I look like a version of myself I’d want recorded. I do think there’s truth in that, too.

Follow Project 30 on Tumblr.
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Subscribe to Miss Manhattan Hangs Out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with George Kong

When I arrive at Fifth Hammer Brewing Company in Long Island City, Queens, George Kong is already there. He’s drinking an IPA--“It’s hoppy, I don’t know if you’ll like it,” he says. My friend of six years, he’s right.

I haven’t seen George since my birthday, and now he says we’re doing that thing friends do when seeing each other the first two weeks of a new year: recap the old, make declarations about the new.

But actually George has a lot to be excited about in 2019. For starters, he has launched his own dating consultancy, byGeorge. Having been a matchmaker previously, he now offers “customized dating services and advice for busy singles.” This includes auditing dating profiles, offering live date support, in-person consultations, dating refreshers, and more that will help people “date smart,” as he says.

It’s exciting to see byGeorge in motion, to see George address a need in a market that very much needs someone like him and is so perfectly tailored to who he is as a person. A people person and connector at his core, he’ll be bringing people together, showing them the best aspects of themselves, teaching them how to share that with another person--it’s work he’s prepared to do because it’s work he’s already done on himself, reflecting on the kind of person he wants to be and successfully instituting those changes.

Tonight, though, is not about work. Tonight is actually about bowling. While bowling for so many of us is a novelty night out leftover from decades past, for George it’s a regular joy, a call back to his past life as a child bowling champion. For years, he went bowling every Saturday morning and practiced during the week, eventually adopting the stance he still holds to knock those pins down.

For a while, George has been gathering friends together for bowling once a month at The Gutter, a bar/bowling alley in Long Island City. We walk from Fifth Hammer and George gives a twirl in his navy trench coat, his favorite item of clothing currently. He shows me his King Kong button from the Broadway show, resting on a blazer covering a button-down shirt covered in bowling pins and bowling balls. It’s all very George, this combination of wacky, classic, and bravado.

We go inside and there’s a wait before the lanes will be empty, so we sit with his friends. Ever prepared, George offers snacks from the kit of granola bars and bananas he prepared in his gluten-free days. Once the lanes are ready, George corrals eight adults into lanes and administers advice only if requested.

On his own turn, he prepares: eyes focus, then there are four steps, the stance, the release of the ball. It’s all followed by the sound of pins clattering to the wooden floor. Sometimes it works better than expected, sometimes worse. There’s so much about the world that changes, George says, but for the most part bowling always stays the same.

Follow George on Instagram.
Check out byGeorge for all of your dating needs.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Subscribe to Miss Manhattan Hangs Out.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Miss Manhattan Hangs 2019!

I didn’t do this last year, but I thought a fun way to kick off 2019 would be with a reflection of this past year. I’ve included below some favorite Miss Manhattan Hangs from 2018, with a little note about the making of each. Happy new year to all of you! Thank you so much for your ongoing support, and I wish you only happiness in 2019. Below, a photo from the hills of Maryland, where I spent New Year’s.

Miss M

January 17: Binalakshmi Nepram
I was introduced to Bina by my friend Andrew, who at the time simply said, “You should meet my friend Bina! She’s great!” I didn’t know about her work until after I set up our meeting. “Great” is, to say the least, an understatement.

January 31: Untitled Queen
One of the things I love most about Untitled’s work is how it shows how well she knows herself and her strengths as an artist, which some people spend lifetimes trying to learn.

February 14: Rhasaan Manning and Lara Vallance
Rhasaan and Lara are truly the epitome of cool and spending time with them was a blast. The nerdy middle schooler who lives inside me is in total awe of them (as is the 30-year-old lady writing this).

March 14: Claire Beaudreault
I love how Claire makes a living making art that’s important to her, whether it’s rap or nails or writing. She seems to me to live so fearlessly, and I find that very inspiring.

March 28: Leo Tolstoy Frank
I didn’t have a subject that week and had made a joke to my friend Steven about doing a Hang with his dog. I texted him to see if Leo was free. I had so much fun and people loved it so much I started doing more pets.

May 02: Concussion
I was so frustrated by the concussion at that point that my usual hesitancy toward vulnerability disappeared. I figured if it helped me to make this, it would help someone else to read it.

June 13: Velvetina Taylor
I saw Velvetina perform ages ago, then randomly met her getting off the Q train one night. I told her about the project--“I promise I’m not a creep!” I said-- and she agreed right there.

August 15: Todd Snider
Because Todd lives on another continent, I never get to see him, so spending such a nice amount of time with him was lovely. Plus, he was so thoughtful about assembling his hang, which I loved.

October 10: Dr. Erin Honcharuk
I helped when I was supposed to, I swear! Plus, I loved being able to share the effort and personalization that Erin and Sean put into their wedding.

October 24: Eloise
This cat is a saucy little riot, just like her mom.

October 31: Tobie Giddio
Tobie I met through my friend Myq. What she said about the Pyramid Club being better than art school resonated with me and I think about it often.

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Subscribe to Miss Manhattan Hangs Out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Rani's Kitchen

In my mother’s kitchen, I have been forbidden from photographing two things:​
1) My mother
2) Her mandelbrot recipe
Which is challenging, because tonight she is making mandelbrot, pronounced “mondle bread,” which is like Jewish biscotti. She’s making three flavors, cherry almond, pineapple coconut, and chocolate coconut, to bring to her friend Roz’s house on Christmas. My mother, whose name is Rani, only started making mandelbrot in about the last 10 years. She baked occasionally when I was growing up, often with store-bought dough or mixes, always more of a (wonderful) cook than baker. Though I’m perpetually delighted to be on the receiving end of a boxful of the tasty, crunchy cookie-esque constructions, for whatever reason I’ve always been out of town when she’s made mandelbrot before, either in college or in New York. My roommate and I gobble the stuff up, and it gets compliments from everyone who tries it. I’ve regularly tried to convince my mother to go into business making the things--I’ve seen bakeries in Brooklyn making a killing selling the stuff in some nonsense “artisanal” style, when mandelbrot from mom’s kitchen is doubtlessly so much better.

She opens her recipe book, a binder into which she has handwritten all of her most famous recipes in her signature royal blue Pilot G2 ballpoint pen, and begins. I aim my camera at the page.

“DON’T YOU DARE!” she says.
“I KNOW, MA,” I say. “I’m just taking a picture of the title, relax!”
She relents. “Fine…”

She starts by slicing candied cherries and pineapple (both of which, I find out the hard way, taste terrible on their own. “That’s what you get,” she says, raising an eyebrow at me. But they are delicious in the cookies themselves). For the first batch, she whisks together [redacted, redacted, redacted], candied cherries and almonds, forming it into a dough that makes three loaf-like constructions. They’re baked, then sliced into that curved biscotti shape, then baked again. And then they’re done. Except she does it two more times, for the two other flavors. All the while, I point my camera into bowls and trays and her hands.

“Okay, NOW you’re getting in my way,” she says with faux annoyance, swatting her fingernails at my camera. “Crummy kid.” It’s one of her favorite nicknames for me, one I also enjoy because we both know she actually thinks the opposite and it makes us laugh. She asks me to turn the tray around in the oven when the timer dings so the loaves can cook evenly.

Soon the first batch is ready and I can hardly wait to get my hot little hands on them. I’ve never had mandelbrot fresh from the oven.

“I’ll only eat the broken ones!” I promise.
“Sure,” my mother laughs. “How many of them are you going to break??”
“You don’t know my life!” I say with faux indignation, holding back laughter.

I don’t break any of them, but I will admit, there are more broken than I thought there’d be….

Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Subscribe to Miss Manhattan Hangs Out.