There are artists that inspire other artists, and Diane Arbus is one of them. Even if you’re not familiar with her name, you’re likely to be familiar with her work. You might recall seeing her famous photographs, Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park or Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ (which happens to bear a striking resemblance to the twins from Kubrick’s The Shining). You might also recall a movie starring Nicole Kidman based loosely on her life. When her photographs were shown at MoMa in 1967, the Director of the Department of Photography at the time included Diane Arbus in a new generation of photographers which he believed varied from the photographers of the past in that they “had a belief that the world is worth looking at, and the courage to look at it without theorizing.”
Woman in white fur with cigarette, Mulberry Street, NYC, 1958
Diane Arbus: In the Beginning recently opened at the Met Breuer, and it features works from the first seven years of her career. She’s probably most well-known for capturing characters from the fringe, and some people took it as an act of mockery. While there might be some truth in the fact that she profited from her aberrant subjects, she actually spoke of them with (an albeit somewhat distorted) sense of reverence. In an interview Diane Arbus said the following:
“Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats”. They have “a quality of legend” about them, “like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle.”
Diane Arbus was born and raised in New York City, and she met her unfortunate early demise here as well. Artists often see beyond the obvious, and one could argue that it takes a psychological and spiritual toll on them. She was known to have suffered from extreme highs and lows, and eventually took her own life at the age of 48. Her early pictures are on display at the Met Breuer in no particular order, and I found the shadows and light in her pieces were able to cast both a sense of wonder and disquiet. Diane Arbus: In the Beginning is on display through November 27.
945 Madison Ave
Tuesday–Thursday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm
Sunday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Pair it with:
A lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster
Luke’s Lobster epitomizes the entrepreneurial mantra “find a need and fill it”: the son of a lobsterman from Maine goes to work for an investment bank in New York City, hates it, realizes there are no good lobster rolls in New York City, teams up with his father, posts an ad in Craigslist for a partner and goes on to create a lobster roll empire. You can now find Luke’s Lobster in nine states and counting. This Upper East Side location was his second, and it was after he signed its lease that he finally quit his banking job. (Bankers, there’s hope for all of you.) Aside from having a truly reasonable price point — when comparing it to other lobster rolls, of course — Luke’s lobster rolls are the no-frills version that serves as our favorite baseline: here they butter and toast the traditional hot dog-style buns, swipe just enough mayo so it melts, then add the fresh lobster, and season with a shake of salt, pepper, and celery salt. Located less than a mile from the Met Breuer, it’s a great way to bring the beach to the city this summer.
242 E. 81st St
Sunday-Monday: 11am – 10pm