Sophie Henry

It was supposed to be a regular Saturday. Wake up a few hours later than a weekday, take a quick shower, eat the regular Yale brunch and head towards my favorite cafe in New Haven — Book Trader — to get work done. I successfully went through these first steps, but while I was at the Book Trader sipping my coffee, “something got a hold on me.” “Fuck this,” I said, and immediately headed towards the Yale Art Gallery. Today, I thought, should be a gift for me from myself. I can go back to the assignments, talk about my classes — an integral part of self-presentation — and chat aimlessly with random people later. One way or another, the time for these tasks must be made anyways, but the courage and energy to break the chain and reward yourself is often difficult to find.

As usual, my feet took me to the contemporary works floor first. I saluted Edward Hopper’s “Sunlight in a Cafeteria” — which chronicles the unsettling tension of the lack of communication or acknowledgement of each other’s presence in urban places — and admired the strength and resilience of Alberto Giacometti’s “Tall Standing Woman.” With the words of bell hooks who argued that love and abuse cannot coexist since that would be against the very definition of love in her book “All About Love: New Visions” in my mind, I pondered upon the ideas and forms of feeling which demonstrate love throughout the history of humankind expressed in a work by an unknown artist. Their painting depicted Artemisia’s preparation for drinking the ashes of her husband Mausolus so that their bodies will forever be joined — hope Mausolus was okay with being turned into a beverage upon his death, for he had no control over whatever live people happened to decide what to do with his now corpsed body — in a “historiated portrait” circa 1640. Even though I covered the opening of “Recent Acquisitions” for the News — sadly, months ago, I could finally visit it on that Saturday. During my wandering in the photography gallery, I stumbled upon perhaps the coolest piece — “The Enlightened Savage” by Enrique Chagoya. Taking inspiration from Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” Chagoya criticizes the commercialization of and restrictions on the freedom of art and the multi-dimensional pressure on artists and their creativity through condensed soup — get it? — cans with titles such as “Artist’s Brains with Rice,” “Cream of Dealer,” “Art Historian Alphabet,” “Fundraiser’s Adobo,” “Critic’s Tongue” and — ironically, within the gallery itself — “Curator’s Liver” and “Museum Director’s Tripe.”

The moment when Ludovico Einaudi’s “Life” reached its climax in my earbuds, I ran into my friend Abigail. Unfortunately, I was so lost in my inner world that I could not filter myself and instinctively wished her a happy birthday even though the party that night was supposed to be a surprise and I had to act like I forgot. I regretted my plainspokenness, but it was still a nice encounter: we exchanged music recommendations for our simultaneous art gallery trips, and it always brightens up your day to run into someone that you genuinely like and consider as a true friend. Plus: the album she showed me had “The Lovers II” by Rene Magritte, one of my favorite artists, as its cover — what a poetic coincidence in an art gallery! 

Next stop was the British Art Gallery. Although ancient paintings are not particularly interesting to me, I learned that Bridget Riley’s “Perceptual Abstraction” was on view, so I decided to take a look. Riley is terribly talented at encapsulating each emotion with a unique color, saturation and contrast. The optical illusions that were born from the marriage of colors were alluring and occasionally put her artwork into motion — as if trying to reach us from the entrapment of the two dimensional space. “Deny” consisted of cool, B&W wavelengths from a distance yet evolved into a warm-red upon a closer look. “Hesitate” had dots which seemed to almost escape from the board, but the convergence of dots in a realistically irrelevant place on the page had them trapped in the liminality forever. “Uneasy Center” as a whole had a particular direction, yet its backbone lines kept falling downwards, and eventually they diverged from the point of its road. Can you really break a uniform, entrapping circle? Riley indeed did with “Broken Circle” from right at its center — the shape was somewhat uncanny or uneasy, but the breakdown itself was what gave the artwork its liberation and uniqueness. The exhibition did not forget to physically travel to other corners of the world either — the journey was not merely abstract and inwards. For instance, “Vein” and “Things of Change” were inspired by Riley’s visit to Egypt and her fascination by the stark contrast of colors there. A brightly saturated desert on the one side and evergreen banks of the Nile River on the other, Riley made her journey immortal by marrying red, yellow, blue, turquoise and green — which are also associated with ancient Egyptian funerary art and architecture. The color relationships were perhaps unstable, but that — for me, at least— made them an accurate representation. 

At the end of my British Art Gallery field trip, a sudden urge to be inside of a movie theater came over me, and I found myself heading towards the Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas. My scheduling reflex made me attempt to find a specific film at a specific time, but the moment I was taking a final photo of “Perceptual Abstraction,” my phone that I forgot to charge the previous night died. Taking it as a sign from the heavens for spontaneity and a chance to break from technology, I just went ahead. 

On the way, I bumped into my friend Jaime and she asked me what movie I was going to see. I said that I did not know, which was true. After making sure that I was sober, she recommended “CODA” — apparently a movie that got an Oscar despite receiving a lot of criticism. I said that I was going to aim for that one, but by the time I arrived at the Criterion, I learned that the next session for CODA was three hours later and I really didn’t want to wait. So I was left with two options that were to start in two minutes: “Batman,” which I never really had an affinity for  — three hours of cliche Hollywood fighting scenes with a cheap but uplifting soundtrack, a desperate attempt to suppress the lack of philosophical takeaways within the movie itself — and “Cow” — a documentary film for appreciating what a dairy cow does for us — so it really wasn’t really a hard choice. Quickly grabbing my popcorn and cola, I happily joined four other people in the saloon. 

The unprecedented 93 minutes of my life turned out to be quite wonderful: the closest thing to “Cow” that I’ve ever seen before was “Honeyland” — a lone beekeeper Hatidže Muratova’s life and her attempts to preserve the natural and traditional ways of beekeeping amidst her new neighbors’ lust for benefit in the rough terrains of Macedonia — highly recommended!) — but I have to say that was about it until this past Saturday. “Cow” seemed to be the filmmaker’s endeavor to move the viewers — who are presumably a bunch trapped in the city’s lonely rush — closer to cows. A realistic and not a romantic portrayal, it was an invitation to acknowledge cows’ significant presence in our lives that often falls behind the curtain. Although I hesitate to comment more on this to prevent even further alienation from the environment, given my lack of knowledge coupled with our already self-centered ways of perceiving Nature and non-human beings, I can simply say that I enjoyed having the chance to get to know cows better. It was also a great way of getting back to earth from “Perceptual Abstraction” with a docu-film that chronicles unhinged shots — from the birth of a cow to her killing.

Now, of course things went back to normal once I left the world of art— the cinema was my final stop in the journey. Starting with an understandably canceled coffee with a friend that was going to happen in an hour — he has just broken up with his boyfriend and, as they always are, it was of course a bad one, life once again threw me back to its chaos: I took a big sigh and opened up my calendar, eventually returned to many unhappy nights at Bass and ran from one place to another throughout the following week. And that’s okay, because I managed to steal a few hours of viewing the world with rose-tinted glasses, and I practiced Elisabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” by, instead of writing yet another review. That was, by the way,  my original pitch to the WKND and what I had in mind, by the way, a shout out to the WKND editors here, for being the best people!, letting go of my routine for it. Perhaps the whole process of grounding myself back in reality began with me turning this somewhat abstract day into a legible piece of production. Or, for the sake of the piece’s spirit, let’s keep it simple: this was a day in the life which I truly enjoyed, I escaped from the circular way of living and wanted to bookmark it by writing about it. Happy WKND people! Not to sound like a stupid 21st century individualistic self-help book, but I truly hope all of you will get to have a nice one, or at least one day in it — for we need it sometimes 🙂

Gamze covers music news for the Arts desk and writes for the WKND. She is a sophomore in Pauli Murray majoring in psychology and humanities.