three creative exercises to do on your next museum visit

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I read a stat that said the average person spends significantly less than one minute looking at a single piece of art in a museum. Sure, there isn’t necessarily a right length of time to spend looking at an artwork, but less than a minute makes me think about people shuffling mindlessly through museums almost as if the visit was simply to check a box on the itinerary of what they think they should be doing which makes me sad.

On the flip side, I also kind of get that mentality. I studied Art History in college so I’d say I have more contextual knowledge of art than the average museum goer, so of course I’m spending more time looking at a painting. I don’t mean that in a snobby way, it just makes sense. If you don’t know the history or the context of an artwork, then looking at it for a moment purely from a visceral perspective would be the likely thing to do.

Thinking through this, I wanted to give you some ideas of creative things you can do the next time you’re in a museum so that you’re being intentional and getting a whole lot out of the visit. Museums can be such inspiring places that can really open your mind, your heart, and engage your creative muscles, so here are a few things to try.

take notes for later
My best friend Caroline and I went to The Met earlier last year and she mentioned this idea to me. While she’s exploring the museum, she writes down the name of three pieces of art that jump out at her and when she’s back home, she’ll do research on those pieces. This way, you’ll get to dig more into the history and context of the piece and then you can journal about what you find and try to discover what it is about the piece that drew you in. This is a great way to build your critical thinking skills when it comes to art and it’ll also help you draw connections and develop your personal taste.

sketch in your art journal
Take along your art journal and take some time to work on sketching sculptures or even scenes taking place in the museum. So many people say they can’t draw, but if it’s a skill you’re interested in developing, this is a great way to do it. Sculpture is a great place to start because it’ll help you start to understand the shape of the human form and how light reflects off of it to create those contours that are necessary in drawing.

capture with photography
If you’re not into drawing, photography is another great way to be creative in the museum and it’s one of my favorite things to do. Be careful with this though, keeping in mind that flash photography and shooting video are typically not allowed in museums. But, you can take flash-free photos with your phone. Museums are really a perfect place to get some interesting shots because they were literally designed to be visually appealing. Try playing with perspective and composition to get some interesting shots. See below for some beautiful museum photography.

Bookshelf: Summer Books That Aren't Overexposed

Photo via Oracle Fox

Photo via Oracle Fox

I look forward to using this summer as time to get caught up on my fifty books challenge. My research for new summer books seems to have turned up all of the same recommendations from multiple websites, which isn't very helpful in creating variety. My criteria for a good summer read include being fairly lighthearted, very engaging, not overly romantic, and preferably a bit glamorous.

Whether you are taking your books to the pool, the beach, the lake, the park, or just staying in bed all day, here are eight books (that you haven't already seen everywhere) to try out this summer as well as a few of my favorites from summers past. 

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
One of my all-time favorites, I tend to re-read Gatsby every summer. Not only is it endlessly thought-provoking, but the parties and dark glamour make it my perfect beach read. One could argue that Gatsby is overexposed, but it isn't necessarily published on reading lists that often anymore. 

2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Every summer requires a good gothic novel and this one is arguably the best. A girl meets a widower in Monte Carlo and accepts a spontaneous proposal. She is swept off to his estate where things begin to get dark.

3. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
This will satsify the obligatory contemporary thriller on your checklist. A travel journalist takes an assignment on a luxury cruise. Everything seems great until she witnesses a woman being thrown overboard.

4. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
This novel is about three women living as expats in Hong Kong. The story explores expat life as a temporary social situation akin to university where there is a sense of detachment from the real world.

5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I am so excited about this particular book as I love stories that span generations and long periods of time. Homegoing is about two half sisters in Ghana who are led down very different paths which impact their entire respective family bloodlines.

6. The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen
In the non-fiction realm, I'm excited for this book which gives an overview of the Nordic way of life. It touches on everything from interpersonal relationships to taxes. As someone who is slightly obsessed with Sweden and Denmark, I think this will be a good one.

7. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
This story is about a painter and other passengers on a private plane departing from Martha's Vineyard which crashes into the ocean. We learn the backstories of the passengers as well as the aftermath of the crash and potential conspiracy.

8. Monsters by Emerald Fennell
A dark comedy, set in Cornwall, about a strange 12-year-old girl who is fascinated by murders. She and a friend investigate the murder of a young woman but things get weird.

Past Summer Favorites 

The Met Ball: Manus x Machina

Since hearing the announcement of the tech theme, I have been so excited for this year's Met Ball. I hope to visit the exhibition this September but, in the meantime, I'll settle for pouring over images on Vogue.com to see what everyone wore! 

I'll start off with what I would have worn. Note: I'm choosing this look prior to the Met Ball, so who knows if I'll get the mood right. My immediate choice would be to wear something from Iris van Herpen who apparently has pieces included in the Manus x Machina show. To me, Iris van Herpen is the future of fashion. Focused on craftsmanship, Van Herpen began 3D printing garments in 2009. Her designs have been inspired by alchemy, industrial smoke, radiant energy, the crystallization process, tesla coils, physics and gravity, biopiracy, and the Large Hadron Collider. My top three picks for dresses would be the nude transparent textured overlay dress from Spring 2016, the crystallized dress from Fall 2016, and the silky gown from the Biopiracy show.

So, on to my favorite looks from last night:

Just based on her new platinum hair and proclivity for goth, I knew Taylor would kill it tonight as the co-chair of the Met Gala. The metallic panels on the back of the shoes alone made the entire look for me.

When it came to following the theme, Jourdan Dunn had the perfect droid couture look which, correct me if I'm wrong, I believe to be Balmain.

As always, Karolina Kurkova was one of the highlights of the evening. She wore a gown designed by Marchesa in partnership with IBM. The dress lit up in different colors depending on its social media engagement.

I actually almost collapsed when I saw Klossy because she just killed it that much. Also flawless was Elle Fanning who can do no wrong.

I love Alicia Vikander in anything and am fairly sure she is the only one who could pull off this look. The tan skin and the boots are perfection. Finally, Kate Bosworth reminded me of a robot Galadriel with a metallic floral crown.

As per usual, Lauren Santo Domingo was styled to perfection. Also, I don't think I've ever seen Poppy Delevigne look better.

What were your favorite looks from the 2016 Met Ball? What has been your favorite theme?

My Top 8 Influential Films

Image courtesy of  Vogue

Image courtesy of Vogue

Waking Life (2001)
Director: Richard Linklater
Featuring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke
I remember vividly the first time I watched Waking Life at a friend's house maybe five years ago. We had similar philosophical interests and he raved about the film, so I imagined that it would be good but never understood just how good. Waking Life is a rotoscope film by (my beloved) Richard Linklater which follows the main character (Wiley Wiggins) through his conversations and interactions with many different individuals that he meets, either in real life or in his dreams. I don't watch it very often, yet I tend to think about at least one of the vignettes on a daily basis. Most often, I come back to the scenes with Kim Krizan (who has fascinating thoughts on language), Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy (who reprise their roles as Jesse & Celine), and Caveh Zahedi (who talks about film philosophy). 

Margin Call (2011)
Director: J.C. Chandor
Featuring: Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, and many more.
This movie is primarily a creative inspiration, in that it tells the kind of stories I want to tell in a format that I find really engaging. The film follows many characters who work at an investment bank---ranging from Penn Badgley as an analyst to Simon Baker and Demi Moore as senior executives to Jeremy Irons as CEO and Chairman of the Board. What makes Margin Call stand out to me is J.C. Chandor's Sorkin-esque ability to create compelling conversations about relatively dry material. 

Begin Again (2013)
Director: John Carney
Featuring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine
This movie is, overall, a love letter to music and a love letter to New York City. I first saw it at The Angelika in Greenwich Village when I was an intern during the summer of 2014. If you've ever been to The Angelika, you may have experienced the rattling floors when the trains passed under the building. To feel the train underneath my feet while watching this movie evoked the most embarrassing emotional response. The influence of this film is completely emotional because, whenever I watch it or listen to the soundtrack, I'm reminded of so many good memories from that summer.

Band of Outsiders  (1964)

Band of Outsiders (1964)

Band of Outsiders (1964)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Featuring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur
The French New Wave film Band of Outsiders is an aesthetically and stylistically influential one for me. From Anna Karina's outfits to the dancing scene, there is that insouciant cool vibe throughout the film as well as stylized elements, the influence of which can be seen in Tarantino's films today.

Rear Window (1954)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Featuring: Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly
My favorite Hitchcock film has been influential to my understanding of visual storytelling. I wrote an essay on the film for a semiotics class in college for which I spent hours digging into the meaning of each shot and the significance of the framing. Hitchcock demonstrates the Kuleshov effect, creating emotions and connotations by cutting the film in such a way that the juxtaposition of shots becomes meaningful. While this kind of editing is clearly based in visual storytelling, it has also been weirdly inspirational for my writing.

Marie Antoinette  (2006)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette (2006)
Director: Sofia Coppola
Featuring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman
The opinions of this film seem to be split right down the middle, you either loved it or hated it and I, obviously, loved it. Its influence on me is two-pronged. The first is visual. Some critics say that Marie Antoinette valued style over substance and that the entire film was just an array of pretty images. While I disagree with that statement, I wonder why that has to be such a bad thing. Film is a visual art, so who is to say that it can't be purely visual? Second, Sofia Coppola has this romantic fascination with youth that I think allows her to create such brilliant films about it. She tells the story not necessarily from the perspective of Marie as a royal, but of Marie as a young teenager thrust into a power position for which she was in no way prepared. It's influential to me for the way that Coppola blends history and modern pop culture to create a unique method of storytelling. Plus, it's very pretty.

Night of the Hunter (1955)
Director: Charles Laughton
Featuring: Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish
Charles Laughton's only directorial production provides some of the most beautiful aesthetic inspiration I've seen on film. The genuinely creepy story is about a corrupt priest who stalks two children down the river in the night. What struck me most (aside from Lillian Gish with a rifle on her front porch) were the beautiful, stark black-and-gray silhouette shots.

About Time (2013)
Director: Richard Curtis
Featuring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Just watch it. You'll understand.

7 Songs on My Mind

"Birds" by Coldplay
This is the kind of song you listen to when you want to spin around and feel very happy.

"Everything Happens to Me" by Chet Baker
The perfect song to put you to sleep during a rainstorm. It's sad, yet calming and entirely flawless.

"Fernando" by ABBA
I don't know why, but it's just been stuck in my head and it's the greatest thing. Also, this.

"Idee Fixe" by Methyl Ethel
This is the kind of song that makes you feel really cool when you're walking somewhere. 

"I Went Too Far" by AURORA
It was difficult to pick just one song because this girl's music is completely magical.

"Drinkee" by Sofi Tukker
If you owned a cool boutique in SoHo, this is the kind of song you would play there. 

"Black Lipstick" by Chicano Batman
This is the song you'll listen to when it's really hot outside this summer.

"Swan Lake, Op. 2 Suite 1 - Swan Theme" by Tchaikovsky
Honestly, this song is the soundtrack to my life so it's always on my mind.

Listen

AURORA

AURORA