An introduction to mineralogy

Maria Kucinski

I have recently had the opportunity to explore the subject of mineralogy while working with the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History on their state-of-the-art gem and mineral gallery, David Friend Hall, opening this fall. When offered the chance to attend the East Coast Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show in West Springfield, I, along with my colleague Bri Tarpey, eagerly set out for Western Mass. to learn about these wondrous mineral specimens, which I have come to realize are like sculptures formed by the earth.

Bob Jones

Bri and I had the honor of hearing Bob Jones, a prolific mineralogist for which a mineral is named after him (Bobjonesite), speak about the new David Friend Hall at Yale. He discussed how he was inspired by Yale’s mineral collection in 1937 and how the new hall aims to continue to spark curiosity with its contemporary display and remarkable specimens (including the 4,000 pound Chinese fluorite with quartz secured by Cap Beesley). Bob explained how David Friend Hall represents the next chapter in the Peabody’s 150-year history as it builds on Yale’s unique mineralogical history which began with Benjamin Silliman and James Dwight Dana.

Peter Megaw Fluorite and Celestine Minas El Tule & Ilusion Melchor Muzquiz Area Coahuila

Following Bob Jones’ talk, Bri and I ventured into the beautifully curated Peter Megaw Collection from Mexico. As novices, it became evident to us that minerals are extraordinary in their shape, color, texture, and variations. Above, fluorite and celestine come together to create these cubic specimens of purple on a white ground.

Peter Megaw Secondary lead minerals Mina Ojuela Mapimi Durango

From the perfectly structured fluorite to the more organic-looking “secondary lead minerals” such as wulfenite, mimette, and cerusite.

Peter Megaw Smithsonite and...8th level mina San Antonio Santa Eulalla District Chihuaua

Here is a group of otherworldly-looking specimens of smithsonite.

Peter Megaw Rhodochrosite 10th Level Mina el Potosi Santa Eulalla District Chihuahua

Finally, the mineral that has obviously caught my eye is the rhodochrosite. It is pink (or what some people may call red) and comes in various shades and forms.

Geokrazy Minerals Rhodochrosite

After finishing up at the Peter Megaw collection, we decided to take a closer look and scope out the selection of minerals available for sale. A dealer showed me a few specimens of rhodochrosite and demonstrated how they sparkled under the light.

Geokrazy Minerals Rhodochrosite

Although these specimens were stunning, I thought I should start my mineral collection a little less ambitiously…(the price listed is $7,500).

East Coast Gem Mineral and Fossil Show Bri Tarpey

So Bri and I kept looking for those specimens which expert collectors advised, “speak to you,” as if spurting lines from a Marie Kondo book.

Geokrazy Minerals Thumbnail specimens

Finally, we came across some “thumbnail” specimens that would fit our needs. I found a perfectly pink and delicate rhodochrosite on quartz and Bri spotted a sharp, orange wulfenite. They are mementos to our journey to the East Coast Show and to proving that museums continue to inspire the desire to learn.

Rhodochrosite on quartz

All in all, with my collection officially started, I’m excited to continue learning more about minerals and sharing that excitement with others.

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Maks & Val: Our Way

Maks and Val

Dancing With the Stars is a great show because above all of the glitz and kicks, it conveys how anything is possible through hard work and commitment. I had the pleasure of seeing two of the show’s stars express this theme in their own live performance, Maks & Val: Our Way, which detailed the Chmerkovskiy brothers’ journey from the Ukraine into the hearts of Americans.

Accompanied by a cast of six dancers, Maks and Val told their story through dance vignettes highlighting transformative moments in their lives along with video montages and onstage interludes in which the brothers would poke fun at each other.

The show began with a video of Maks and Val’s father discussing the decision to send Maks to dance school at age four and the reason for leaving Ukraine ten years later in 1994. In preparation for their move to the US, their father wrote inspirational quotes on their kitchen wall such as, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail,” and, “We wil surviv.”

It was evident that Maks and Val were grateful to their parents for giving them the opportunity to dance and to move to the US. To make the best of their opportunity, they dedicated themselves to dancing and lived by the philosophy that it takes doing something 1,000 times in order to do it well. Maks started teaching dance in New Jersey and dancing at restaurants on the weekends to help support his family, and Val trained to win the first-ever world junior championship for the US team in 2001.

My favorite part of the show featured Maks as a dance instructor attempting to teach a group of unruly three year-olds to do the salsa. Eventually, under Maks’ direction, the students successfully worked their way through all of the dance styles. I loved how it showcased Maks’ discipline, patience, and drive.

I also enjoyed Val’s dramatic interpretation of love in the second act. The fusion of dance styles – in which the female dancers were portrayed as violins – conveyed the intensity and intricacies of love. Val also played the violin during the show.

Our Way also featured some comic relief revealing more about the Chmerkovskiy’s relationship. At one point, the brothers found themselves dancing together, prompting Maks to correct Val’s hold. During Drake’s “One Dance,” Maks executed a few booty-shaking solos, causing Val to role his eyes. They even brought a woman – from my hometown – onstage to be Maks’ prom date for a cute skit in which they were crowned prom king and queen.

All in all, Maks & Val: Our Way was an entertaining and heartwarming show underscoring the importance of hard work. Not only did I come away with a greater understanding of the Chmerkovskiy brothers, but with inspiration to keep working toward my goals. As Maks and Val took their final bow to Justin Timberlake’s new song, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Val remarked, “Thank you for supporting the arts.” Amen to that.

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Thomas Lendvai

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

Thomas Lendvai: 10 at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. (c) John Muggenborg.

Thomas Lendvai is a meticulous, thoughtful, and talented artist who transforms everyday construction materials into large-scale sculptural experiences. His works celebrate the intrinsic and elemental value of the materials he utilizes while simultaneously exploring the notion of self. Through his work, he explores modernist and post-modernist theory of sculpture that is informed by a knowledge of carpentry, taught to him by his father at an early age.

Lendvai’s site-responsive installations make use of fundamental geometric forms to address concepts of space and time, and to engage audiences through experiential installations that break down the boundary between the art object and the subject and question the notions art, design, and architecture. His work encourages movement and a continuous awareness of a series of nows, allowing for audiences to experience a more tactile engagement with space and self.

His exhibition, 10 at Odetta Gallery in Brooklyn, exemplifies his artistic practice and is the culmination of years of study, exploration, and contemplation. It is also an impressive, monumental sculpture that is surreptitiously balanced, forcing the viewer to accept and at the same time question the idea of here and now. The sculpture transcends gravity by breaking the plane of the floor while the crux is simultaneously elevated. A feat that some might call “magic.” I would call it artistic mastery.

no distibution of images

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

(c) John Muggenborg

no distibution of images

(c) John Muggenborg

An image from the show "Thomas Lendvai 10" at Odetta Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY.

Thomas Lendvai at Odetta Gallery, August 2015. (c) John Muggenborg.

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Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

Captivology
Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention caught my attention at my friend’s apartment (when I was helping her move from Boston to Little Rock). I was curious to learn what the author Ben Parr had to say about rising “above the noisy crowd,” especially given my experience in public relations and marketing, and seeing firsthand how Buzzfeed and Broad City have become pop culture mainstays. Among the reasons why Beyoncé is popular and why we tend to agree with the crowd, I learned the following from reading this book:

 

  1. Attention is the conduit through which we experience our world.
  2. Wear the color red – Our brains are hard-wired to “ignore everything that isn’t necessary to goals,” so we rely on a variety of stimuli to direct our attention through what Parr calls “automaticity triggers.” Red not only stands out, but it also signifies competence.
  3. Offer someone a warm drink – Touch is another important sensory cue, and it turns out that people who hold warm objects are more likely to give positive attention and are more cooperative.
  4. It’s difficult to change someone’s frame of reference – Parr calls this the “inertia of ideas” because over time, we don’t have the mental capacity to continuously reassess our beliefs.
  5. We may believe something is true because we’ve heard it a thousand times – This is known as the “illusion-of-truth effect” and it demonstrates how the familiarity of a statement may impact our assessment of its validity.
  6. There is a certain number of times an audience can be exposed to something – This is known as “effective frequency.” The repetition may cause an audience to engage or it may just become worthless.
  7. Disrupt – It’s easy to capture attention by disrupting expectations through a) surprise, b) simplicity, and c) significance. Significance is the most important because a great ad or campaign won’t be successful unless it’s meaningful.
  8. FOMO – We really do have the “fear of missing out” also known as the “commodity theory,” where the more scarce something is, the more we value it.
  9. We want to be rewarded – Parr discusses intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and how we place more value–and thus pay more attention to–intrinsic rewards such as positive feedback from a boss.
  10. Imagery is a powerful motivator – Because we aren’t so great at grasping esoteric concepts, we go after rewards that we can visualize.
  11. Reputation matters – Turns out that talent is not the best predictor of popularity, reputation is. We rely on three types of reputable sources for directing our attention such as a) experts through knowledge and wisdom, b) authority figures through ability to command obedience, and c) the crowd through its collection of knowledge. Reputation is built by consistency, personality, and time.
  12. Credibility is a shortcut to building reputation – While still building a reputation, one can use a reputable person or company also known as a “validator” to back a pitch.
  13. Confront the crisis – It’s best to respond quickly and thoughtfully when faced with a difficult situation. The longer a misconception is allowed to linger, the more likely it is to stick.
  14. We agonize over mystery – Suspense is a powerful tool to capture and hold our attention because of our “compulsion for completion.”
  15. Being acknowledged is important to us – We have an extreme desire to be recognized, validated, and understood by others, and so we direct our attention towards anything that affirms our identity. Social media is very important because we can instantly and immediately be validated.

All in all, I found Captivology to be an insightful and informative book about the variety of ways to capture attention. I also enjoyed reading historic examples of marketing campaigns such as Edna Murphy and James Webb Young’s campaign to make antiperspirants the cultural norm and Russell Birdwell’s campaign to drive interest and thus ticket sales for Gone with the Wind. Through these and many other examples, I gained valuable knowledge that I can use in my personal life and professional career. I definitely recommend this book.

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A South Carolinian Debutante Ball

At the invitation of a friend of mine, I traveled to South Carolina to attend a debutante ball, a grand tradition in which young women are presented in society. Because I had only recently learned about this tradition, I jumped at the chance to experience this unique coming-of-age celebration.

South Carolina Debutante BallDonning a floor-length gown and opera-length, white gloves, I stood at the front of the crowd and marveled at the cherub-like debutantes entering the ballroom. With their anachronistic white dresses, bouquet of red roses, delicately placed hands, and pleasant smiles, the debutantes were escorted by their fathers to the center of the floor to perform a grand curtsy under the chandelier.

South Carolina Debutante BallThey were then handed off to their escort and shuffled across the floor once more.

South Carolina Debutante BallFor the finale, the fathers and daughters danced a waltz.

South Carolina Debutante BallThen the real party began with party-goers dancing the Carolina Shag and contemporary dance styles.

Carolina Shag

South Carolina Debutante BallAlthough the presentation was perfectly executed and the party was fun, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the rationale behind this antiquated event in today’s society. I also couldn’t imagine how these young women were coping with the varied messages the ball conveyed as well as the impossible expectations that were set upon them. I found myself questioning the entire event – Why does this tradition continue today? What purpose does it serve? Is there a more meaningful way to spend an evening? Is there a better way to showcase the strengths and talents of young women?

South Carolina Debutante BallAll in all, the debutante ball was an intriguing cultural experience that somehow transcended time and provided me with some additional perspective.

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Goldberg at the Park Avenue Armory

Igor Levit

At the performance of Goldberg at the Park Avenue Armory, starring Igor Levit with direction from Marina Abramovic and lighting by Urs Schonebaum, I was entranced by the commingling of artistic voices and how they translated into a pure expression of music for the audience to experience.

We were asked to lock up our belongings and we were then given a score and noise-canceling headphones. We found lounge chairs in which we were to sit, facing the center of the Drill Hall, which was illuminated by four screens of bright, white light (reminiscent of the productions of Robert Wilson).

The first gong rang and we obediently placed our headphones on as the instructions dictated. With my headphones on, I was immediately reminded of John Cage and his revelation that one could never be in complete silence because one always hears two sounds – the high pitch of the central nervous system and the low murmur of blood in circulation. Once I acknowledged this, I tried to focus on the experience of the Abramovic Method for Music and “embrace the unfamiliar sensation of doing nothing.”

But then, I saw Levit sitting at the piano on the platform, slowly making its way toward the center of the Drill Hall. I was captivated by his presence and his lack of stillness. He was clearly antsy, fidgety, maybe even nervous (in all fairness, it was the dress rehearsal). He had a long slow journey ahead of him and yet, he could not settle into the moment. I couldn’t tear my attention away. I had to keep watching as he continued toward the center, my own anxiety heightened by this spectacle. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Get it together!” But then again, who am I?

The second gong rang and we removed our headphones in order to listen, as the instructions stated. A horizontal line of white light appeared along the edges of the hall and above the piano keys, flooding Levit’s hands in light. “Framing the space using light, ” says Schonebaum, “gives a focus point for the audience and the freedom for the music to go beyond.”

Levit then began to play what Peter Laki describes as “nothing short of a complete encyclopedia of musical forms, styles, and keyboard techniques existing in Europe in Bach’s time.” Levit’s hands seemed disconnected to everything in the world as he played the 30 variations ranging from involved hand-crossing pieces to the “lavishly ornamented slow movements.” The platform on which Levit was seated slowly rotated in a circle, and as it did, the horizon line of light was reflected along the piano’s curves, creating an additional dynamic and subtly beautiful focal point.

The pianist finished by repeating the first variation and upon its completion, the audience broke into a thunderous applause. Finally free to do something other than listen. It was a transformative moment, like waking up from a nap in which everything in the world somehow becomes aligned and there is clarity where there wasn’t before.

After the performance, my friend and I were sharing our thoughts on the experience. I knew he had his eyes closed during the Abramovic Method part, and, not wanting to disturb his meditation, I didn’t nudge him to watch Levit’s journey to the center. He responded by saying, “Next time a musical prodigy is floating down the middle of a monumental art space in what appears to be an inexplicable moment of anxious freak out and tremendous build-up…And I have my eyes closed deep in nirvana…Wake me up!!!”

All in all, Goldberg is a masterwork in experiencing classical music, which Abramovic believes is the “most immaterial form of art.”

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Clay Time with Nicholas Newcomb

The talented ceramicist, Nicholas Newcomb, recently invited me and a group of friends to his pottery studio in Brooklyn to learn the fine art of ceramics. Through Nic’s teaching, I came away from our “clay time” session with a deeper appreciation of ceramics as well as great admiration for Nic’s work.

Nicholas NewcombNic studied fine art at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, where he apprenticed with renowned ceramics artist Toshiko Takaezu. He has also worked with highly acclaimed artists, sculptors, and designers such as Leslie Ferst, Regis Brodie, William Hardy, and Christopher Spitzmiller. Now in his eponymous shop, Nic creates a variety of works including minimal, nature-inspired dinnerware, drinkware, serveware, and cachepots; organic lamps and air pod plant holders; and free-form sculptures. Nic’s collections mimic his laid back vibes and his thoughtfulness.

Nicholas NewcombNic’s also a great teacher. In addition to teaching the techniques involved in ceramics, he taught the philosophies behind it too. I learned to let the imperfections go and to embrace the mistakes. Plus we had a great time making our own little objects whether they were functional or purely aesthetic.

Nic Newcomb Clay Time

All in all, I thank Nic for sharing his knowledge and insight. I am excited to continue following Nic’s career.

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