November 1, 2011

Artism Autism: Our Trip to New York City

Last week was a fun, busy, and exciting week for our family. 

My son, Bryce Merlin's, artwork was accepted into the Artism Autism show at the Soho Gallery for Digital Arts, curated by Debra Hosseini. 

Artwork by many artists (from several countries) was included in the show. My husband, Mark, and I were happy to have the opportunity to drive to New York City and stay for several days. Jesse joined us, arriving from Philadelphia, so it was a family time as well. As Bryce's last (and only other) trip to NYC occurred on September 9 - 12, 2001 (see past blog post), it was extra sweet to take him there once again. (I had been back twice, in 2002 with Jesse and 2009 with Mark.)

Below is Bryce's self-portait, one of his two drawings accepted into the show.  

Bryce is very interested in hair styles and often braids his hair. For a long time, he has wanted to have his hair professionally braided. So, as a special surprise, he and I went to Attractions Hair Salon in Athens the day before our trip and Vanessa braided Bryce's hair. She took great care and we were amazed at how even and perfect Bryce's braids looked when she finished, about an hour and a half later!

We celebrated by going to the diner across the street from the hair salon for lunch. 

Later in the day we took Farley, Tyler, Jackie and Gracie to the vet's for boarding. Bryce got to see where our three dogs and one parrot stay when we are out of town and the good care they receive at "doggy camp."

The next morning (a Wednesday) Bryce, Mark and I left Athens about 7:30 a.m. for New York City. It was a cool, rainy day. It rained most of the way through Pennsylvania. But finally, about 7 p.m., just after dark, we arrived in NYC. Here is a photo of the Lincoln Tunnel. I have a bit of claustrophobia and taking photos helps to keep my mind off being in a tunnel! (Taken using the Hipstamatic app for iPhone.)

For some reason it took us twelve hours to drive from Athens to NYC. We had gone through a lot of heavy rain and made a few stops; and when we arrived on the outskirts of the city the traffic getting into the Lincoln Tunnel was really backed up. When we finally arrived in the city my mind felt a bit like the photo below!

But, I got a second wind and started see what I could take a photo of out the car window as Mark drove to the hotel. 

I thought it would be very unusual to have the following scene be one's school crossing. Where we live there are more deer crossings than school crossings.

Bryce loves the lights and signs and energy of New York City.

We arrived at Hotel Elysee and had dinner at Cellini Restaurant. Bryce discovered he likes veal parmesan, having had a sample of Mark's dinner. His own choice was spaghetti and meatballs. 

After a good night's sleep in our suite, we had breakfast at the hotel and then left on our first adventure... to see the Statue of Liberty. Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, Bryce asked to see "the most beautiful lady in America" but our plans to see the statue from the observation area at the top of the World Trade Center were not to be. Now, at last, Bryce would see Lady Liberty for himself.

But first, Bryce's first ever ride in a taxi.

There was a very long line waiting to get on the ferry. It was still raining and was also cold. Umbrellas were everywhere as we waited in a serpentine line and then went through security, an example of organized chaos as potential visitors removed belts, jewelry, cell phones and all manner of metal from their persons and made their way through metal detectors. Whew! I was glad to be through that.

Once on the ferry, Bryce pointed out that it was his first ever ride on a big boat where you could feel the rocking motion. He looked a bit worried at first, but was A-OK. I was glad I'd brought the plastic poncho that had been in my car's glove compartment for, well, for the last two cars I've owned. I had brought it along and we covered the wet seat with it and were able to sit down. We were on the top of the three-deck ferry.

Here she is, coming into view!

Even with the rain and the cold and the mist, she was magnificent! As it turned out, the next day, October 28, 2011, was the Statue of Liberty's 125th birthday.

After our ferry ride, we were ready for hot coffee and lunch. So it was back into a taxi and on to Katz's Delicatessen. Mark has been to New York many times and knows the best places to eat!

Bryce ordered a soft salami sandwich with Swiss cheese. He liked it when the owner stopped by, asked where we were from, and explained that the deli had been founded in 1888.

Bryce noticed the salami hanging on the wall and thought we should purchase one to bring home for our Pekingese, Tyler. I told him we couldn't but that he could take a photo of the salami, so I handed him my camera and here is the result...

We knew that Jesse would be arriving soon, so called and asked him if we could bring a sandwich back to the hotel for him too. While it was being made, Bryce and I enjoyed splitting a piece of New York cheesecake. Yummy!

It was wonderful to see Jesse! We had a good visit, a rest and shower and then it was off to the Soho Gallery for Digital Arts. Here is a photo of Jesse and Bryce outside the entrance. The sign says "ARS Spectrum: The Artistic Autistic." It was to be a four-day event, though we were only able to stay for two days. The artwork will be up until November 5th.

Inside the gallery we saw the many large video screens which displayed artwork in a rotating fashion; about every several minutes a new piece of art would appear on the screen. Most of the works (prints) were priced at $95, with half going to the artist and half going to benefit a school for children with autism. John Ordover is the owner of the gallery.

Debra Hosseini and Bryce at the opening night of the Artism Autism show at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Arts. Debra is also the author of "The Art of Autism" (see cover below), which is available on Amazon or from A second edition of the book will be available soon and some of Bryce's work will be included!

FYI: Debra's son, Kevin Hosseini is a prolific painter who has been featured in film, newspaper and art books. His art is on display in many venues across the United States. In April 2011, Kevin was part of a 
Neurodiversity Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art of the Ukraine. 

The photo below shows another work of Bryce's that appeared in the show. The gallery walls were white, but the lighting was subdued and I did not use a flash.

The photo below is of Bryce and his stepdad, Mark Williams.

Here is Bryce's self-portrait in the show.

Here is Joel Anderson's drawing of the Statue of Liberty.

After the show, we went to Gallagher's NY Prime Steakhouse. Here is a whole lot of steak, aging...

It was great being together at the restaurant, but our meal would have been more enjoyable if we hadn't been seated next to a large party of businessmen (and one woman) celebrating some event with many toasts and loud talking and laughing as they yelled from one end of the long table to another. (sigh) It was hard for me to hear, for us to hear, and I imagine also for Bryce as he wears a hearing aid that makes all sound come in at the same level. 

Here are the staff… Gallagher's has been around since 1927 and the walls are covered with photographs.

Here is Jesse in the photo below; it was wonderful being together. (Jesse is the developer for Sidecar and is also on the continuing education faculty of Moore College of Art & Design and has been active in the Philly music scene as a DJ for several years and as a founding member of Stakeout Music.)

Below is a photo taken that evening after dinner, and you can see it is still cloudy and rainy.

We returned to our hotel and watched exciting Game 6 of the World Series.

The next day, Friday, we headed off to see the de Kooning exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Bryce was able to see the de Kooning exhibit and the wonderful, expressive colors, lines and shapes within his work. It was tiring for him, though, and Mark sat with him in view of Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, while Jesse and I explored the fifth floor galleries.

It was wonderful to walk with Jesse through rooms full of famous paintings I'd previously seen only in books and prints: Picasso, Leger, Hopper, Wyeth, Van Gogh…

We only touched the surface of the masterpieces there for all to see. It was bittersweet to walk out when part of me wanted to stay there all day just taking it all in. But I told myself MoMa will be there when I return for a more leisurely stroll through her many wonderful galleries. If you'd like to explore the museum, but can't make it to New York, check out this link for a virtual tour.

For lunch, Mark took us to a wonderful restaurant, Papillon. Bryce enjoyed a big bowl of macaroni and cheese and I caught his Impressionistic-like reflection in a foiled mirror. The white lines at the top are fake spider webs, which were part of the decorations for Halloween.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel for a rest, then made our way to SoHo for dinner and a performance event at SGDA gallery. 

We had a lovely dinner at Blue Ribbon. The table was small for the four of us, but the service, atmosphere, and food were all wonderful. Bryce enjoyed the ribs and chicken wing appetizers that he was able to grill over a flame right at the table. I loved the Shrimp Provencal. (Here's their menu.)

"Brothers, chefs and restaurateurs Bruce and Eric  Bromberg have set culinary trends and ignited passions for almost 20 years, most notably as founders and guiding forces behind the Blue Ribbon Restaurants Group. In their early twenties, Bruce and Eric Bromberg each attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, graduating with the highest honors with Eric holding the distinction of being the first American to teach classes at the prestigious school."

After dinner, we walked down the street to the gallery. Keri Bowers of Normal Films (co-director with Taylor Cross of the film "Normal People Scare Me") organizes performances by talented children and adults on the autism spectrum. We went downstairs in the gallery to a performance area and were happy to have the opportunity to see talents beyond visual arts as folks on the autism spectrum performed. There were comedians, pianists, singers… Sybelle Silverphoenix sang "Bad Reputation"; Taylor Cross performed a wonderful monologue. Amy Gravino (who you will see in the film link above) recently attained her master's degree, and she read a short story about a first french kiss. It was an outstanding piece of writing. In the film (from a few years ago) she stated she wanted to be a writer… Amy, you really are a very good writer! Tom Ryan played the guitar and sang two original songs: the first was called "The Hard Way." The second, I didn't catch the title, but as Mark pointed out later, if it was professionally produced it would be at the top of the charts. I agree!

The sound system was challenging and there were more people than chairs, but the latter is a good thing and I'm sure the former will be improved upon. I had tears in my eyes more than once and when I looked at Bryce he was intently watching and listening to everything. 

We returned to our hotel with many happy memories of the day and evening…and to watch the last game in the World Series before heading off to dreamland and the next day's drive back to Ohio. But first, a word from the meteorologist. A BIG  SNOW STORM was headed our way! We said our goodbyes to Jesse (sigh and sniffle on my part) and the next morning quickly packed up and headed out. Leaving New York City was easier than getting in had been a few days earlier, and soon we were in New Jersey and then Pennsylvania and here is what it looked like on our drive through Pennsylvania.

When one has their own business, albeit a small business (Lucky Press), snafus come up even while you're on vacation. That's why iPhones and iPads were invented. I was able to check email, check problems on Amazon, check in with an anxious author who was looking forward to a Nov. 1st book launch and finding Amazon had the wrong cover image up!… I was able to check the GPS to see where on the PA turnpike our car was… and able to take the photo below and upload it to Facebook. (I was doing all these fun things while Mark was driving. He's from Cleveland and is not fazed by snowy weather. I, on the other hand, spent 17 years in Florida and am not happy to drive in the snow.)

Are you curious about Lucky Press's book launch, which takes place TODAY? Here is a link for more information on Jessica Bell's wonderful book (and accompanying CD soundtrack), String Bridge.

We were happy to enter Ohio and find the sun shining through clouds, the trees in the last glorious colors of autumn and a light rain starting as we made our way to Marietta where we stopped for dinner. Then it was past the lights of various power plants on Rt 7 as we headed to Athens. Of course, as soon as we were near our fair city, home of Ohio University, we noticed several police cars pulling people over… Lucky for me (as I was now driving) I was utilizing the cruise control feature on Mark's car!



February Grace said...

Oh wow, to stand before it and actually look at Starry Night...just the thought gives me goosebumps.

Even more exciting though to see how Bryce clearly enjoyed the trip- what a huge thing- to have his art in a show in New York! I'm glad he finally got to see Lady Liberty- and my favorite photo of all is the one of the two of you on the ferry. So wonderful that Jesse got to be there with you all too for so much of your trip.

Thank you for sharing your trip with us (and for the link- have to check out that virtual art gallery tour...)

Good luck to you, Lucky Press, and Jessica with the launch of String Bridge!


Janice Phelps Williams said...

Bru, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on my blog post. It was a wonderful trip! An unforgettable trip!

I hope you are able to find the time to create with words and paint. I think you would have liked the colors and the illumination of the work we saw in NY.

Melissa Kline said...

What a wonderful post, Janice! I felt as if I had been on the journey with you. The photos you took were absolutely beautiful. They told a story of their own.

I'm so happy for Bryce and am so glad you had a nice family gathering. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us! :)


Janice said...

Thank you, Melissa. You have been so supportive of Bryce and his creativity. I really appreciate it!

billdyer said...

Janice thanks for including me and sharing your trip. It is great to be able to see pictures of everyone and Bryce's creations. I love Bryce's surprise of getting his hair braided before the trip :) Really great!

Rachel Simon said...

This was a marvelously enjoyable post about a memorable, busy, celebratory experience. I'd forgotten the earlier trip to NYC but was glad you included the link to the relevant post...where I was VERY glad to learn you overslept on that terrible day. I had no idea you came so close...I love how you finally got to see the Statue of Liberty, even if the weather was less than ideal. And I love all the trips to restaurants, the menus, the details about the traffic build-up before the tunnel (a jam I sat in hundreds of times when I was a child, having grown up in north Jersey), the salami on the walls. Mostly, I love the art and the art show. I could just imagine how proud Bryce was when he saw his work displayed, and how proud you were of him. And how wonderful that Jesse made it, too! Except for the weather and the unfortunate memory, it seems like a perfect trip!

Janice said...

Thank you so much, Bill, for stopping by.

Rachel, I know you are incredibly busy and have stacks of things to read…thank you for reading and commenting on this blog post. I have been additionally inspired to detail our little trips after reading your wonderful pre- and post-release trips related to your books. You inspire me!

Yes, much to be thankful for!

Anonymous said...

Hey there,
I am just passing through from Alex's blog hop, and I am still working my way around all the blogs on the list. So I thought I would say a quick "hello" and I will stop by when I can. Great blog!!
Eve :)

gherlashdawn said...

New York is the only city that is different with all types of cultures around the world and I believe NY should be its own country since it is so different. USA Business visas are temporary non immigrant visas that permit successful business people to direct and manage their trade with and/or investment in the US. Everything started here so many people are from here it is for everyone! its ghetto and glamorous city.

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