Police Sketch Artist Captures Your First Love

By Janet Paist and Jillian Scharr
|  Wednesday, Jul 21, 2010  |  Updated 10:32 AM EDT
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A provocative exhibit by a Brazilian artist - tells the tale of your first love - as seen by a police sketch artist.

A provocative exhibit by a Brazilian artist - tells the tale of your first love - as seen by a police sketch artist.

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There is a fascinating show at the New Museum -- a jewel box of a museum on the Bowery in downtown Manhattan -- that you should definitely make time for.

The interactive exhibit, by Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander, is called “A Day Like Any Other”, and stretches over three floors of the museum. Each, in its own way, deals with the passage of time.

On the ground floor, before you even have to pay to get in, you’ll find the exhibit “I Wish Your Wish,” a collection of beautiful colored ribbons with wishes written on them.
 
They run the gamut from “I wish I had the courage to divorce my husband,” to “I wish that Obama would win another term.” You can remove a ribbon with a wish and tie it around your wrist; according to a Brazilian tradition, if you wear it until it falls off, the wish will come true. Then, replace it with a wish of your own by writing it on a slip of paper and placing into a hole in the wall.

The artist goes through the wishes and decides whether to place them on another silk ribbon; in that way, museum goers share wishes from all parts of the world. “I Wish Your Wish” has been traveling around the globe since its debut seven years ago.
 
On the third floor, walk among a group of aluminum pails, some on the floor, some suspended from the high ceiling, all continually dripping water from tiny holes.
 
The sound of the dripping is said to replicate the experience in Brazil after the rainy season. There, we are told, pails like these are everywhere, even in the most elegant of settings, overflowing with the steadily-trickling remnant of the rains.

“It becomes an almost meditative environment if you let it work for you that way. It has its own rhythm” says Richard Flood, Chief Curator of the New Museum. “It really recreates the feeling, the ambiance, the temperature of after the rainfall. But, it is this kind of humorous admission to the notion of coming from a country that is very much about leaks.”
 
Perhaps the most evocative exhibit of Ms. Neuenschwander’s work is on the fourth floor.
 
At first glance, the exhibit, called “First Love,” is just a desk covered in papers positioned before a wall of facial sketches -- but its simple display belies its back-story. The museum supplies a police sketch artist (they call themselves forensic artists these days) who will spend about two hours with you as you describe -- not a criminal (hopefully) -- but your first love.
 
The artist draws a sketch from your memory. And that can be tricky, as Jarrett Gregory discovered while describing her boyfriend of 10 years ago: “Never forget them, yes, but whether you remember the shape of their nose or something, that’s something else.” Once the sketch is done, it joins the others on the wall of the New Museum, for all to see.
 
“A Day Like Any Other” is an extremely accessible exhibit. As curator Flood put it: “What’s exciting about Rivane is the fact that she really is a complete humanist. She’s not creating art as this abstract affectation. She’s making art so she can connect with the world and hope that people through her art can connect with their own sensibilities.”
 
The exhibit runs through September 19 at the New Museum at 235 Bowery in lower Manhattan.

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