Harlem & Columbia

On our last day in NY, we visited Columbia University and Harlem. I took the highest number of photographs that day, so I guess that shows quite accurately how much I loved both areas.

Columbia University campus (pictured above and below) is simply stunning. If the architecture alone weren’t enough, the notable list of its alumni is impressive enough to leave anyone bewildered. Jack Kerouac, whose On the Road I’m currently reading, is part of the list.

From there we walked to Harlem. The closer we got there, the cleaner and wider the streets and the friendlier the people. I saw many a brownstone:

But this is my favourite:

Probably because it reminds me of West Side Story and I was somehow expecting Bernardo and his gang to appear (and dance).

Naturally, as with things I really REALLY like, I had to do a watercolour of it:

NOTE: All photos by Araceli Robledo, except from the West Side Story clip, which is via On the set of New York


I returned last night from an absolutely amazing trip to NYC. So much was done and accomplished that it can’t all be condensed into one post. So here’s the first installment, a visit to the MoMA. And what a better way to start off than with my newly-finished MoMA bowl:

The bowl would not represent the collection properly without a Warhol. And a trip to NYC with no references to Warhol would also seem flavourless. I’d already been preparing for the trip, and top of the list was Warhol’s studio on 57 Great Jones Street, where Basquiat spent the last months of his life and died of a heroine overdose. Here’s the front door:

On our way to Cafeteria for the first brunch in the city, we walked by the Chelsea Hotel. It was here where Warhol shot Chelsea Girls in 1966, a film about his Factory regulars and their lives at the hotel.

We tried to have a super fabulous ice-cream sundae at Serendipity 3, which Warhol frequented before he was well-known, but unfortunately the queue overflowed out to the street…

But back to the MoMA… and to my favourite painting there: Matisse’s The Dance. Here it is hanging majestically:

The BBC series of Modern Masters shot an entire episode on Matisse, which I couldn’t recommend more, and you can watch here:

Although not on view at the MoMA, for reasons I cannot understand, Robert Indiana’s 1967 LOVE screenprint is part of the museum’s collection. The colours, composition and cleverness had to make it to my bowl. Curiously enough Manhattan as a city recognises the brilliance of Indiana’s work and a sculpture of the piece can be seen on the corner of 6th Avenue 55th Street. Perpetually crowded by people, if I may add…

To make the trip to the MoMA even more memorable, there was live music being played in the Sculpture Garden. But not just any live music, it was bossa nova, magical and perfect  for a warm summer night:

Mauricio Pessoa was the genius behind the end to this magical night. And each time I listed his song Boca no Lodo, I am literally transported back in space and time…

NOTE: All photos by Araceli Robledo


I’m a big fan of Barbara Streisand, huge. However, I think she got it all wrong with her song “People”, when it says People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. I’d actually change it to People who can draw people are the luckiest people in the world. I mean, it’s HARD!

A few weeks ago I met up with my brother Domingo in New York for 24 hours (which ended up being 48, although that’s another story on its own). We had a fantastic time together, walking from Broadway to the Battery and taking in everything the city has to offer – including dinner at The Modern. Mmmmm… When I came back to Toronto I was full of NY inspiration, which slowly dissipated unfortunately… until TODAY.

I did not draw buildings, I drew people. The first dozen sketches were so hopeless I almost gave up; 9-year-old Araceli would’ve done a far better job. But suddenly they started turning out a bit better and after drawing another dozen New Yorkers from the 60s I’m actually quite proud of the following 4 who made it to this post.

The Met

One of the good things about living in Toronto is that I’m just about an hours’ flight – or 8-hour bus ride – from NEW YORK CITY!! Last Christmas I was lucky enough to spend the holiday season in Manhattan with a good friend. My goal was a simple one: visit the Met and, equally important, see Sargent’s Madame X, one of my favourite paintings. At the time, there had been a snow storm in New York and the entire city and surroundings were covered in feet-deep snow, so it was more than a leisurely stroll down the park.

After what seemed to be a proper treasure hunt – go down the hall, turn left by the Greek statue, then right, then left, then cross the atrium, then get on the only elevator that goes to the mezzanine, then turn left, then right, then left, then over and blah blah blah – I finally arrived at the American wing. What a disappointment. All these amazing works of art, stuck together in aisles, YES AISLES, back to back, front to front, no space to contemplate them and enjoy their full potential, their perspective, nada. And among them, unframed and against a metal grind stood Madame X. I almost cried in sadness, such a powerful painting which should be presiding a gallery lies in a metallic storeroom. Apparently it’s only a temporary measure, but even still, that is no excuse.

Naturally this put a damper on my visit to the Met as a whole. Nevertheless I still enjoyed my excursion, and I liked the building so much that I turned it into one of my very first silkscreen prints. Perhaps next time I go Madame X will be happier? I sure hope so…