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The Museum as Place

I’ll start with a confession: last month, in New York City, I visited the Whitney Museum of American Art and didn’t pay close attention any of the art. It’s sacrilegious, I know—especially for a member of the Princeton Art Museum Student Advisory Board. In my defense, while I was in New York City, I also visited the Neue Galerie and went to the Met twice. Those times, I did pay attention to my glorious surroundings. I even read the placards. So why am I here now, writing about my experience at the Whitney rather than my—perhaps more, ahem, intellectual—experiences at other museums? Because there was something about my visit to the Whitney that was so much more striking. It showed me the value of museums as spaces for personal experiences.

It was my last day in New York City. The Whitney closed at 5 o’clock and, as a result of bad planning and late subways, my boyfriend and I only got there at 4:30. We had managed to conquer public transportation; we’re both art lovers; we didn’t trek all the way there for nothing. We still bought tickets. And I decided I still wanted to see everything.

We started at the top: the 8th floor was home of the outdoor terrace whose breathtaking view of the Meatpacking District I had seen countless photos of. Then we ran through that floor and all the floors below it (by “ran” I mean a breathless sort of fast walk—had we actually run, the security guards would have hated us even more than they probably already did). We were on a mission, surely—to take in as much of the Whitney as possible. It was a half-hour full of glimpses of beautiful art that my mind remembers in swirls of color and brushstrokes. It was doors that led to stark white staircases with drop-dead gorgeous views of the city I loved. It was a race against time; it was a scene from a John Green novel (though that sounds so painfully cliché to say). I wish I could personally apologize to the artwork—I know it all deserves to be stood in front of, pondered at. But the experience itself was art. It was the most powerful dosage of aesthetic I could take at once (and I can take a lot of aesthetic).

My experience reminded me that museums are not just vessels for art. They are living, breathing places themselves—places where magic can happen. Just take some of the yearly events at the Princeton Art Museum, for example: the Nassau Street Sampler, the Student Advisory Board Gala, Failed Love. I’ve heard a few of my peers worry about how they think people don’t pay enough attention to the museum’s artwork at these events. My response: maybe they don’t. But for everyone at those events, whether or not they spend enough time looking at the art, magic is happening. And that magic is an experience within itself. (And it will probably encourage them to revisit the museum later so they can give the art the attention it deserves. Like how I want to revisit the Whitney one day. And actually look at the art closely. Sorry about that again, Whitney.)


For more posts from the Princeton University Art Museum Student Advisory Board, visit https://puamsab.princeton.edu/


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The Phantasmagoria Night Fields


There’s an elevator in your room one-fourth the size of a cardboard box

That takes you to the black-grass phantasmagoria night fields

Where you want to watch the stars and I say “this is a nice place to watch the stars”

Immediately trying to reel the words back and swallow them

In a little star-shaped pill that burns my esophagus

And leaves a fiery celestial trail down my throat


I can stare at the sun for maybe a minute

Before fear of being blinded pulls the ecstasy away, away, away

I can’t pretend I wouldn’t like to go back to the other three-fourths

Of your cardboard box room

And watch the hem of your grey hoodie sway from a hanger

When the windows are open



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Never Land


Note: this poem is inspired by “Straight On ‘Til Morning,” a work of fiction I wrote for my creative writing class at Princeton University. I did not post it on Curyosity for length reasons, but contact me if you would like to read it.


They said Never Land was somewhere we could

Close our eyes and never feel anything again

All these lights strung together could build

A ten-mile wide city but that’s not enough

For you, not enough for me


We need to escape


In a back alley in the black of night

Or a room tucked in a forgotten corner

Of your maze-house

Where we lay languorously on golden chaises

We let reality fly by like it never even existed


What’s real? I touch you but feel nothing

There’s no magic in Pixie Dust save for the magic in our minds

But our minds are cages for shadows

Your shadow so intertwined with mine

I could never find it if you asked


You raised a glass of stars and said

“Here’s to never growing up”

And all the boys and girls who are lost cheered

I looked up at you like you were made of magic

And brought my glass to my lips

I’ve felt old, so old, ever since


hour twenty-five



they nuked new york city

when i say they i mean west america

our uncontested enemies, yes, but

an unexpected test of strength from

a place where we once thought waves

were all that moved in gloom of night


skyscraper tops scarcely stay clear

of the dirt’s deepest layer

now they build these buildings underground

(when i say they i mean architects)

because it’s harder to get us here

we are so heavily guarded


only on your sixteenth birthday can you see the sky

i’ll get to that later


there’s no sun or stars or moon but there are lights

lights like you have never seen lights from every window

lcd—neon—bulbs—thousands of thousand-watts

twinkling lights not-twinkling lights constantly overcompensating

for the darkness inherent in our surroundings and heads


instead of rain, money falls into millionaires’ outstretched hands

as they stand on their balconies and enter their bentleys

like a suffocating sea of black suits

and manicured jeweled fingers that operate

golden cages that seem glorious from afar


(her rubied hand rests on his thigh—he looks down—feels sickened—why?)


when you’re sixteen they let you go up for twenty four hours

to a desolate field where you can feel the death of the old city

everyone carves a short story into the metal carcasses

i know of one


my friend julius owns an aston martin

and the largest inheritance in east america

he said he’d be up for a few minutes at most

but the sun and the stars and the moon

and the reds and the blues and all the other hues

cradled him with the comfort that some things he could never have


he went overtime and was dragged out at

hour twenty-five




something tells me so


i don’t want to see the city i love

if it’s not through your eyes

the streets you own, the gate to your home

your old school’s red little door that tells me you’ve adventured

before I was at your side


the rows of dark houses

echoing my dreams back at me

the chill I feel isn’t from the cold but I

grab your waist anyway


“you make me feel euphoria”


are we euphoric in the taxi cab you kiss my forehead in?

in the invisible night park

where we count

the million bright lights shining for us

in our sky?


you’re made of these places

the sparkling energy in the air—the same as

the electric current running through your skin


our dreams are bigger than others’—

they dream of seeing us in a cage

or feeling special for a few hours

we dream of a lifetime of looking up at the stars

and never worrying


some paths were meant to cross and

some paths we’re meant to be cross at

i wonder what would have happened had you asked

a week earlier, back when I would have had to say no

would we still be here drinking vanilla milkshakes

in the diner you’ve been going to since you were born

would we still be hugging each other’s side down

quiet city streets

something tells me so


Album review — I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it


Image from wikipedia.org

Go down
Soft sound
Car lights
Playing with the air
Breathing in your hair
Go down
Soft sound
Step into your skin? I’d rather jump in your bones
Taking up your mouth, so you breathe through your nose.

—”The 1975,” The 1975


I didn’t think anything could beat The 1975’s first, self-titled album: a masterpiece devoid of filler tracks, whose every song was a tightrope-walk between bleakness and hopefulness. And so far, I was right. The band’s new album I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it (which I’ll henceforth refer to as I like it when you sleep) didn’t beat The 1975. Nor did it even meet its standards. But I still enjoyed I like it when you sleep—to the point where I play its best songs on repeat constantly. And I know I’ll look back and consider it one of my favorite albums of the year, even though it fell short of my expectations.

I like it when you sleep sounds happier than the rest of The 1975’s music. It’s a synth-filled, lyrically poetic stream of songs that at times bursts with exhilaration—before tracks that are mellower, like “A Change of Heart,” pull the album back to a moodiness that fans of the band are used to. I had always pictured driving down lonely night streets in my head whenever I listened to the band’s older stuff. With this album, I picture lonely night streets awash with a bright glow. Fittingly, that’s the aesthetic The 1975 is going for now. The promotional pictures as well as those in the album booklets depict abandoned nocturnal scenes with pink neon signs that spell out the song titles.

The album is on the experimental side, and though I applaud The 1975 for stepping out of their comfort zone, the more experimental songs sound like filler. Namely, the last four tracks on the album fall flat. “This Must Be My Dream” and “Paris” sound like contrite bubblegum pop, and “Nana” and “She Lays Down” are acoustic in a way the band just can’t pull off—these last two songs are far more boring than even their slowest synthy ballads. However, there are many songs on I like it when you sleep that are worth a listen—at the very least, “The Sound” and “The Ballad of Me and My Brain.” Tracks like these can stand against the best of the band’s older songs and lead me to believe that, no matter how discouraging it sounds, The 1975 should stick to what they’re best at—indie-electronic songs crafted with complexity and full of energy and emotion.


For this and more posts, take a look at “What We’re Loving – Spring Break 2016” on the website for the Nassau Literary Review, Princeton University’s oldest literary magazine: http://nasslit.mycpanel.princeton.edu/wp/2016/03/what-were-loving-spring-break-2016/


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princeton art museum // medieval art gallery // me

As someone who has loved art history and art museums my entire life, it excited me to no end that I would have a free museum with Monets and Warhols at my doorstep. I’ve gone to the Princeton University Art Museum more than your average student has, since I was in a freshman seminar that took place literally within the galleries during fall semester. I’ve wandered through all the displays, gazed at all the artwork on view (and some pieces behind-the-scenes). But my most magical moments at the museum have been in the Medieval Art gallery.

This gallery looks markedly different from the others at the museum. The stark whiteness of the room immediately strikes you. It reminds me of what believers imagine heaven looks like—full of light, demanding reverence. The decorative marble staircase, the arched stained glass windows, the elaborately carved columns all bring back an era of romantic artistry. There’s devotion in the religious panels that give splashes of color to the walls. There’s mystery: the tomb sculpture of a Spanish knight of unknown identity. And magic: the two painted sculptures, a monk and a knight who have a gleam in their eyes like they’re about to come alive.

It’s December, and I’m at the Student Advisory Board Gala at the art museum. It’s themed “Salon Cezanne” but here I am in this room—in the Middle Ages, far from the abstractions of Cezanne. I’m in a black lace dress and heels and I sit down on the old wooden bench for my friend to take a picture. But there shouldn’t be a camera, and I shouldn’t be in these clothes. I feel my mind slipping away. Now I’m wearing a gown woven with the greatest intricacy, in a dark-paneled room lined with tapestries, in a castle full of marble staircases, in a world resounding with the clang of swords and the tales of knights and the prayers sent up frantically to God.

I sigh as my friend and I join the rest of the crowd in the central gallery. The real world, where schoolwork and stress await me once I get back to my dorm. But it’s reassuring that behind me is a fantasy world I have always dreamed of entering—one I know I can always return to.


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see this post and others at the Princeton University Art Museum Student Advisory Board website https://puamsab.princeton.edu/2016/03/julia-cury-on-her-favorite-gallery-of-the-puam/