You say it that way if you’re from there. The rest of you say “The Bronx.” It’s the only borough of New York City on the mainland of North America. I — the SJ half of Sam Cabot — was born and brought up there. In fact, I edited the BRONX NOIR volume of Akashic Book’s “Noir” series. Three different parts of Da Bronnix are settings for action in SKIN OF THE WOLF. One, Fordham U, has already had its own blog. Another one will, a little later in this series. The third is represented in the upper of these two photos, both taken by a terrific photographer and fellow Bronx native — though we didn’t know each other growing up — Ira Wagner. The second of Ira’s photos here is also of a place in the Bronx, a skating rink at the edge of Van Cortland Park. Both photos are in his book, “Superior Apartments.” Check it out.
If you like these posts, we’d like it if you’d “Like” Sam Cabot’s Facebook page. Thanks!
We’ve been showing you links to Native American history and art. Yesterday we showed you the Brooklyn Museum. One of the two halves of Sam Cabot — the Sam half, me — is a well-known Sinophile. Now watch while we magically pull all this together in this post.
Currently running at the Brooklyn Museum is a show of works by Ai Weiwei, called “According to What?” It runs until Aug. 10, and if you can, I’d recommend getting there to see it. And now there’s this collaborative piece by Ai Weiwei and Navajo artist Bert Benally. It’s called “The Pull of the Moon” and it’s in New Mexico. If you can I’d recommend getting there, too, though I’ve only seen it in reports like this. Both artists focus on bicycles in their work — Ai on the image of the bicycle as a metaphor for the Chinese people, for forward movement, etc.; and Benally on the component parts of abandoned bicycles as raw material to be re-worked and re-purposed into sculpture. They were made for each other, and the piece was made for Navajo TIME (Temporary Installations Made for the Environment), an art project that brings temporary, site-specific art to the Navajo nation.
The Brooklyn Museum makes no appearance in SKIN OF THE WOLF. Then how did it sneak in here? Because it has a large Native American collection, whose curators do some innovative exhibits. Because its curators make a point of consulting with the Native nations represented in their collections before anything’s exhibited. And because, being from the Bronx, I have a particular soft spot for my Brooklyn cousins.
Michael Bonnard, one of the main characters in SKIN OF THE WOLF, is a researcher at Rockefeller University. Many people think we made that up, the way all the college students on Law and Order used to go to Hudson University. But no. Rockefeller is a real place, on the Upper East Side (and look for a future blog on that neighborhood) and they do some esoteric work over there. Just the kind of place for a guy like Dr. Bonnard, who’s kind of esoteric himself.
As we’ve been doing this countdown some people have become uncomfortable about the Native American masks. Many Native nations have masks that are not costumes as such, but are the embodiments of living beings, sacred beings, and can be used only in ceremonies. Some have strict rules attached: it might be that children, or women, or anyone not a member of the society that holds the mask, are not allowed to see them when they’re not in use.
There’s also the extremely prickly question of the sale of Native art — see SJ’s first post — both for the above reason, and because a lot of it wasn’t “collected,” it was flat-out stolen. Or sold by tribal members who had no right to dispose of it; or was the property of people whose settlements were looted after they’d been killed.
These are serious issues and we take them seriously. Nothing we’re using falls into those categories. All the Native American masks we’re posting are from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, which is Native-run, or from tribal museums, or from institutions like the Brooklyn Museum where the curators have consulted with the nations whose artists made the masks in question. All these masks have been approved for display by representatives of their makers’ nations. Some weren’t made for ceremonial use at all, but for display or sale. We’re not using images of items these museums have been asked not to display. Nor are we using any auction images.
So relax and admire the masks. Their makers — unlike the maker of the mask in SKIN OF THE WOLF — would want you to.
In SKIN OF THE WOLF a lot of the investigatory heavy lifting is done by a Lenape NYPD detective named Charlotte Hamilton. She has a different name in her own language, of course, and when you read the book you’ll learn it. (But will you learn to pronounce it? You’re on your own with that.) Are there really Native Americans on the NYPD? Of course there are. Close to 120,000 enrolled tribal members live in NYC, the largest urban concentration of indigenous people in the country.
The first native member of the NYPD, James. A Schowers, was Lakota. He died in the line of duty in 1941, at the age of 40. He’s still remembered today.
both locations have some great permanent exhibitions and full schedules of special ones
both locations also present music, dance, movies, kids’ shows — check it out!
possibly most valuable to know, if you’re staggering around DC, doing the museums, and you’re about to faint from hunger: the Mitsitam Cafe is hands-down the best museum dining spot in DC. It’s so good I go there when I’m in DC even if I’m not visiting that museum.
In a pivotal early scene in SKIN OF THE WOLF, Spencer and Michael take a stroll through Central Park. They’re walking after dark, and this is absolutely not what happens to them. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Who are Spencer and Michael? Well, you’ll just have to read the book, won’t you? Though if you’ve read BLOOD OF THE LAMB you already know who, and what, Spencer is.