Articles by: Maya Adamczyk

  • Life & People

    Brooklyn's Holiday Secret

    Brooklyn is no stranger when it comes to offering an alternative approach to cultural experiences. While the borough is best known for its pockets of various European communities, each specializing in its own delicious cuisine, each December it transforms into a Winter Wonderland: Italian style. 

    A New York Christmas is most often considered akin to the 5th Avenue spectacle of elegant white and silver lights, which neighbors the grandeur of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree; yet as mobs of tourists overtake the city’s most glamorous avenue, a few clever visitors have begun discovering Brooklyn’s best kept holiday secret. 

    The Dyker Heights Christmas lights are an annual phenomenon, powerful enough to turn any Grinch into Santa Claus himself. Each nook and cranny between 80th and 86th Streets is meticulously adorned in lights, which cover the scores of automated Santa Clauses, reindeer and nutcracker armies, like tiny snowflakes. 

    The Italian stereotype of over-the-top gestures and larger than life dinner courses, when applied to the commercial side of Christmas, is proof that bigger actually is better. What started out as one woman’s intention to lift her neighbors’ spirits in the ‘80s, has quickly evolved into a friendly competition to outshine the house across the street. Though Lucy Spata’s original display has escalated into an opportunity for professional decorators to exhibit their talents, the pioneer behind “Dyker Lights” impressively tackles her home and yard on her own. 

    Spata’s passion is reinforced by her ability to keep the Ebenezer Scrooges at bay. The holidays would not be the same without the handful of grouches not on board Santa’s sleigh, epitomized by people who complain about an increase in people coming to visit the area. Luckily, moaning and groaning is not enough to power down the splendor of these lights, whose only competitor is perhaps the brilliance of Disney’s Electrical Parade

    So if this season’s left you uninspired  as far as “decking the halls” is concerned, look no further than Brooklyn’s own Christmas spectacle. For those not keen on traveling by car or metro, Italian-American “Dyker Lights” specialist, Tony Muia offers nightly bus tours up to December 31st. Each tour lasts around three and a half hours and can be the perfect present for kids from 1 to 92, one that concludes with a scrumptious Italian treat:  coffee and a traditional Italian cannoli. 

    Those of us who are more courageous and yearning to burn off a few pre-Christmas cookie carbs, the free “Lights in the Heights Ride” this Sunday, December 23rd may catch your interest. The 25, numerically appropriate, miles of a jolly bicycle ride will not only make your cheeks rosy, but will have you fitting right in with the Brooklynite hipster crowd. Whatever your mode of transportation, you won’t be short on holiday spirit this season-just be prepared to sing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” all the way home.  

  • Art & Culture

    Michelangelo's Mystery Man

    While a trip to Italy may not be in your budget this winter, you can now easily satisfy your craving for acclaimed 16th century Florentine sculptures without having to leave the country. The newest guest at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is Michelangelo Buonarroti’s David-Apollo - a work which had previously visited the gallery over a half-century ago, in 1949.

    The most recent initiative, “2013- The Year of Italian Culture,” coordinated by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, has precipitated the arrival of the marble wonder over the Atlantic, from its permanent home at the Museo del Bargello in Florence, and made it available for Renaissance art enthusiasts in the United States. The idea behind this exhibition is to expose its viewers to the richness of the Italian identity through the country’s culture- its art, music, literature, and more.

    Buonarroti’s sculpture is effective in doing so, namely because of the way in which it extends an invitation to the viewer to ponder the mystery of its subject. The history behind the piece, “finished” in 1530, is well- known. The artist, a supporter of the Republican faction in Florentine politics, was forced to forego his partisanship in light of the growing Medici power. In order to gain the favor of Duke Cosimo I, Buonarroti created the David- Apollo for Baccio Valori, a governor associated with the Medici regime.

    The sculpture’s role as a middleman for strengthening international relations was augmented after World War II, when it was brought to America to bolster cultural ties between the two countries. However, the identity of this “middleman” has never been confirmed, and for this reason it remains another one of Michelangelo’s “imprisoned souls”- one which the artist had almost succeeded in releasing. Were it not for two significant features, the marble man would be liberated from this eternal identity crisis, though this would come at the expense of the viewer’s participation in the guessing-game that makes the work so compelling.

    The sculpture’s “spiraling pose,” also known as “serpentinata,” is not unusual among works from this time, and therefore would warrant both hypotheses as to the subject. The enigma lies in the unfinished portion of marble under the statue’s right foot- is it Goliath’s head (as would make sense in the case of the Biblical David) or an ordinary slab of stone? More interestingly, is the unchiseled shape on the man’s back representative of the sling of David, Florence’s adopted guardian against tyranny, or is it perhaps a quiver, where the Greek deity Apollo would have stored his arrow?

    While Duke Cosimo I’s inventory supports the former proposition and art historian Giorgio Vasari leans towards the former solution, it is ultimately up to the viewer to decide. Don’t delay-take your turn playing detective this season-before the exhibition ends in March 2013.