Author Archives: Keith Muchowski

Framing New York

Framing New York

Framing New York

This past Friday I was leaving Castle Williams after doing a tour when I noticed an art installation to the immediate left. It turned out to be “Framing New York.” After a few minutes enjoying the view of the Harbor and Lower Manhattan, I struck up a conversation with the artist, D. Chase Angier. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

The Strawfoot: Where did you get the inspiration for “Framing New York?”

D. Chase Angier: From New York itself – the rapid rate in which it changes, its history, beauty, art, and stories. I have a deep love for this city as many of us do who have either grown up here, transplanted here, or even just visit.

Inspiration for this project came from my complicated love for New York City coupled with my deepening concern for our future. What is New York City today and how does that reflect who we are and where we are headed?

One of the elements that makes New York City unique is the unusually rapid rate at which it is changing. The rate of change coupled with the extreme density of buildings and people living in New York, creates an intense energy that is distinctive. “Framing New York” asks the audience to pay attention together to one select place in New York City at a particular time.

How would you describe your approach to your art?

I have many different approaches to art but if I need to reduce it down to one thing, I am a site specific choreographer.

Artist D. Chase Angier in front of her creation. The orange boat is the Staten Island Ferry sailing by.

D. Chase Angier in front of her creation. The orange boat is the Staten Island Ferry.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I received my BA in Dance from UCLA and my MFA in Choreography from The Ohio State University. Basically, I am an interdisciplinary artist who specializes is site specific choreography. I am a dance professor and director of the dance program at Alfred University. I also create and perform site-specific performances, performance installations, dance-theater, and walking performances. My works have been performed internationally in Japan, the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom and throughout the different regions of the United States.

What other “Framing” projects, if any, have you done in the past?

I framed Edgewood Farms, owned by Harold and Beverly Snyder in Alfred, New York. That was different in that it was a one time 2.5 hour event. The audience watched him hay his field. I placed ten matching white Adirondack chairs in front of the white frame for the small invited audience. The audience had to remain small and invited, in fact, because they were put on call to view this work. Certain weather conditions had to work together (wind, temp, humidity) to make it possible to hay on a particular day.

The frame captured the shapes of the tall grass contrasting the cut hay, the tubular windrows, and the spiral “floor” patterns on the field. The lighting for the work was the sometimes indirect sunlight that filtered through the clouds creating interesting moving shadows, and the sometimes direct sunlight that not only brought out the gold color and the smell of the hay but also created the heat which added to the sensory experience. All of this activity happened against the beauty of the subtly changing landscape – the clouds, birds, cows, and hills.

Framing Edgewood Farms was the first in a series:

Had you spent time on Governors Island previously?

Yes. I have been going almost every summer since it reopened. My favorite experience was the three day New Island Festival in 2009 with the Dutch. I enjoyed the art work, lectures, parties. It was three days of incredible madness.

Two visitors take in the view

Two visitors take in the view from the installation

You mentioned in our conversation that the New York skyline changes depending on the weather, time of day, and other circumstances. Explain.

Every day is dramatically different. The clouds, light, temperature, water traffic, people walking/biking by. The shadows crawling up the buildings – or no shadows at all on a cloudy day. How the light and sky reflect on the mirrored buildings, making some of them look as it they are disappearing. The dramatic dark thunder clouds versus a hazy hot light day. The color of many of the buildings change. The events change – Obama coming to NYC and landing close to Pier 11 as his military helicopters through the frame; the fireboat shooting out water the next day; the lack of people in the frame during the week on a rainy day, versus the crazy amount of people on the weekends.

In addition to the light, color and sky –  I have been fascinated by the choreography of the harbor. The different shapes, tempos, directions, rhythms, colors, size, levels, of all of the various boats. Tall ships, clipper ships, kayaks, repetitive orange staten island ferry, circle line, garbage boats, tug boats, oil tankers, jet skies, shark motor boats, cruise ships, etc.

It is a participatory artwork in which people can sit in the chairs and watch the harbor and skyline.

What has the public’s reaction been?

So far extremely positive. My favorite part about New Yorkers is that they like to talk to strangers (me) and they like to tell stories. I had heard a lot of stories about 9/11 as they look and no longer see the twin towers. Firemen, construction workers, lawyers, financial analysts etc. Tourists have been moved as they are seeing the city live from a great perspective (across the water) that they have only seen in movies and photos. Skeptics, teenagers, and people not exposed to a lot of art have used the word “actually” a lot, as in “I actually like this”, “This is actually cool”, etc.

For how long can visitors see “Framing New York?”

Through July 27th


Filed under Governors Island, Interviews, New York City

One July day


I was going from point A to point B on Governors Island this morning when I noticed the blimp floating above. That is Fort Jay and the moat in the foreground. Yes, it really was that nice out.


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What can one say in 2:00 minutes?

I am sorry about the lack of posts recently. I have been so busy on other projects that something had to give. I have been making strides these past few weeks on the manuscript of the book about Theodore Roosevelt Senior. He was was quite the man. It feels good to be making progress. I promise to share as I get farther along.

Here is something special. I first saw this add for a UK bread company years ago. Earlier today it popped up when I was searching for something else. My favorite part is when he comes across the 1953 coronation party for Queen Elizabeth, turns the corner and meets the Mod girls. The carload of blokes celebrating the 1966 World Cup victory is the icing on the cake.

I am assuming the fireworks toward the end are for 2000 New Year Celebration. Wow, that was a long time ago now. Enjoy.

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Anna Bulloch (Gracie)

These now faded markers are the headstones of Anna Bulloch, James Gracie, and Martha (Grandmamma) Bulloch. Martha died in 1864 when the Civil War was still going on.

These now faded markers are the headstones of Anna Bulloch, James Gracie, and Martha (Grandmamma) Bulloch. Martha died in 1864 when the Civil War was still going on.

I was in Green-Wood Cemetery yesterday afternoon and came across the headstones of Anna Bulloch and James Gracie. I have seen these many times before. Anna was Theodore Roosevelt’s aunt, his mother’s sister; James was his uncle. James was part of the Gracie family that owned what we now call Gracie Mansion, the New York City mayor’s official residence.

Theodore Roosevelt’s mother Martha was from Roswell, Georgia and married Theodore Senior at a young age. Anna and Grandmamma moved to New York and lived at East 20th Street soon thereafter. Anna home schooled Theodore and many other neighborhood children, including Edith Carow. I have always suspected that they moved to help Martha as much with the in laws as with the kids.

a close-up of Anna and James

a close-up of Anna and James

In addition to her four children Martha had to contend with her in-laws living just a few blocks away on Union Square. What’s more, she had four brothers-in-law also in the neighborhood, including one next door. It did not help either that the Civil War was coming and the Bulloch were staunch Confederates living and/or married into a family of Lincoln supporters. She didn’t have the buffer as Seinfeld would say.

What has always intrigued me about these headstones is that Anna’s has her maiden name. I have never understood why hers says Bulloch and not Gracie. We know from the literature that theirs was a good and close marriage. James became very much a part of the Roosevelt extended clan and participated in the family’s charitable and other endeavors. It seems strange to me that she kept the Bulloch name.

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A Hard Day’s Night turns 50

IMG_1045I had the day off today and, determined to do something that included air conditioning, went to see the newly remastered A Hard Day’s Night at the Film Forum. The film was originally released fifty years ago this week. I have seen the movie at least dozen times, including several on the big screen, and it never ceases to surprise. It is one of those cultural reference points that I revisit every 5-6 years and see through different eyes every time. What is on screen is the same; it is my perspective that changes as I grow older and develop. In that way I know the place for the first time.

A Hard Day’s Night strikes the perfect balance of story telling, musical montage, and seeming cinéma vérité. Seeming is the key word. Five decades on some viewers still believe they are watching a documentary. This is not surprising; the Maysles Brothers’ footage of the Beatles’s February 1964 arrival in the United States was one of the A Hard Days Night’s inspirations. It is easy to confuse the two. The whole movie is leavened with just the right dollop of magic realism, which is appropriate. The Beatles at their best contained just the right dollop of magic realism.

A few things I noticed this time around were:

the dinginess. This was the period of Austerity Britain, the two decades or so after WW2 when England was still recovering and London was not yet swinging. The peeling paint, damaged buildings, and bad roads were glaring in the remastered version;

the sprinkling of people of color in the crowd scenes. This was the era when the Empire was winding down and many from the Commonwealth were moving to Great Britain. Look closely and you will notice that some of the screaming fans are from India or other parts of the Empire. They did tour all over the world after all. Their fan base outside of Great Britain and America is an interesting and under-explored part of the Beatles’s story;

the North/South Divide. In England the caricature is flipped; Southerners are seen as being sophisticates and Northerners the rubes. This was especially true a half century ago. Unlike some scousers in show business at the time, the Beatles never hid their Liverpudlian provenance. I had never noticed the North/South jokes before today, probably because there is so much else going on.

The Beatles made a few more movies after A Hard Day’s Night, but none succeeded like this one. The later efforts couldn’t capture the wit and winningness on display here. It was a time when a rock group could share a variety stage with magicians, jugglers, and dancing acrobats without a trace of self-consciousness. It all seems so far away and yet so modern at the same time. Watch it again and you will see.




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Pic of the day

Rough road ahead

I came across this sign up the street from our house and naturally had to stop and photograph. It is for the street work they have been doing, but feel free to interpret any way you wish.



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Sunday morning coffee

IMG_1035Yesterday someone received his National Park Service Volunteer Pass for going over 250 hours of service. I could have gotten the pass a long time ago had I been paying attention to the benefits that accrue with these milestones. When I began volunteering at the Roosevelt Birthplace last October I told myself I would vigilantly track these types of things. It is not about the money saved per se, but enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. I intend to put it to good use over the summer when I visit a few places.


One of the most enjoyable endeavors at the TRB this year was the opportunity to work on writing content for the installation in the lower gallery. The rangers did a great job putting the whole thing together, and it was a privilege to play a role. The two cases you see here were mine. Here are a few close ups.



Governors Island on the 4th of July was a wind and rain swept landscape. The weather kept people away but those who were there were in good spirits and enjoying the holiday atmosphere. The weather could have been better, but the island does have a fun feel in such circumstances.

For the second time this summer I met people at the Roosevelt Birthplace who were on Governors Island the day before. Usually such folks are out-of-towners who have an interest in historic sites. One of the most interesting things about Park Service sites in New York City is meeting such folks. This was especially true at Ellis Island where such a large percentage of the visitors are not New Yorkers.

The summer is on here in New York.

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The Governors Island YMCA

The onetime Governors Island YMCA

The onetime Governors Island YMCA

The Governors Island YMCA opened its doors in July 1900 and was an immediate success. The first floor contained a reading room open to all. Above members enjoyed a library, auditorium, and other amenities. In typical New York fashion the dedication was not held for another three months; then as now, those who could left the Big City when the temperatures began to rise. Instead, the Manhattan dignitaries showed up for a formal dedication in early October.

Detail above the doorway

Detail above the doorway

What you are looking at is not that building. So popular was the “The Y” that the old original building soon became obsolete. Thus in the mid-1920s the YMCA funded and built another structure, the one you see here in the photographs.

Colonel John Thomas Axton was the Army's first Chief of Chaplains. He is interred today at Arlington National Cemetery.

Colonel John Thomas Axton was the Army’s first Chief of Chaplains. He is interred today at Arlington National Cemetery.

The new building opened in April 1927 and when it did Colonel John T. Axton, the Army’s first Chief of Chaplains, delivered the dedication. Two days after Pearl Harbor Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, working with others, began planning a “Stars in Khaki” fundraiser for the Governors Island Y at the Pierre Hotel. Throughout the Second World War philanthropic groups used the auditorium and other facilities in the war effort. When peace came there would be reunions and tributes to such groups as the Veterans of the Seventh Regiment and the Association of Former Members of Squadron A. This was all in addition to the daily use of the building.

Sergeant Irving Berlin's paean to the YMCAs of the Great War

Sergeant Irving Berlin’s 1918 paean to the military YMCAs of the Great War

Uniformed service personnel stationed on Governors Island loved using their YMCA. Y officials even provided spiritual, leisure, and educational services to the prisoners in Castle Williams, of which there were usually several hundred at any given time. Despite its great work, the Governors Island Y had become redundant by the early 1960s. There were now more and better athletic facilities, and a full service library, operating on the base. The Governors Island YMCA closed in 1962.

(images/Axton, US Army; Berlin, Johns Hopkins University)

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Last Sunday in June

I was surprised today at the number of visitors who mentioned the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War. A lady came through whose grandfather graduated from West Point in August 1917. I did not know until she told me that the Military Academy accelerated its classes to rush young officers off to France. It shouldn’t be a total surprise though because they of course did the same thing during other wars. It is lost on us how small our standing army was prior to most of our conflicts. The man whose granddaughter was on the island today fought at Saint Mihiel.

Here are two photos of Ranger Val dressed as a doughboy which I snapped earlier today.

Fort Jay glacis

Fort Jay glacis

Val leading a tour within Fort Jay

Val leading a tour within Fort Jay

Remember, Governors Island is open seven days a week this summer. I am so looking forward to being on the island for the Fourth of July this coming Friday.

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Sarajevo, 1914

Soldiers Capturing Assassin of Archduke Ferdinand

The Great War Centennial begins today with the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. As I have stated several times over the past few weeks I intend to do a fair amount of WW1 Interp and other work on this over the next several years. I am even boning up on my French to better help myself. I know from having attended the Centennial Commission trade who in DC two weeks ago that many museums and other institutions are gearing up for this. The publishers are too. Today I began Thomas Otte’s July Crisis: The World’s Descent into War, Summer 1914. Like the Civil War, the Great War is so fascinating because it is both so close and so far away at the time. In ways we are still fighting both of them.

I am fortunate in that the two Park Service sites at which I volunteer, Governors Island National Monument and the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, offer numerous opportunities for such endeavors. The sites even offer opportunities for the Joseph Hawley and Theodore Roosevelt Senior books, which are proceeding apace. Over the summer I am going to share more here on the blog and Facebook page about my progress, something I have not done so much yet.

(image/the arrest of Gavrilo Prinzip after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, 28 June 1914)

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Filed under Governors Island, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace (NPS), WW1