Shadow Dancing

I worked a double at the National Academy today, a booking that’s practically a staple in my art modeling schedule. “Saturdays at the National” as I like to call it. Morning painting class from 9 – 12, then afternoon painting class from 1-4. The one hour break between 12 and 1 is of course for lunch and, weather permitting, a casual walk on Fifth Avenue and in Central Park. Today, the weather permitted.

The midday sun was high and bright and direct. Unimpeded by clouds, it had free reign over the Upper East Side, casting shadows through the trees, between buildings, down onto the streets and all over Central Park. I took pictures of the marvelous patterns and they could be found literally everywhere. It was a shadow bonanza! And it reminded me that nature truly is the greatest artist.

So here are some of my shots. In this one, the dappled shadows make the pavement’s flat surface appear like cobblestone:

I love this one. Just by chance, those stretching runners stepped into the light spot of this shadow under the tree at the very second I snapped the picture:

Big, big shadow on the facade of the Guggenheim. Anything to improve the look of that building! 😆

The steps leading into Central Park. Such a pretty pattern:

An amazing tree shadow on the path along the reservoir:

The resplendent source of all this shadow-making, the artiste herself – the blazing sun above Fifth Avenue:

In the afternoon class, I showed Dan Gheno my shadow pictures. He really liked them which meant a lot to me. When we got to this one, he said “That’s your self-portrait!”. Probably the quickest self-portrait ever produced, yes I took a picture of my own shadow. So here it is, an artistic masterpiece!  I call it “Self-Portrait in Shadow”, by Claudia Hajian 🙂

19 thoughts on “Shadow Dancing

  1. Jennifer says:

    I can confirm that indeed New York today looked exactly like Claudia’s photos, having traversed Manhatten by foot and subway! 🙂

  2. Guggenheim; take more than a shadow to improve. :-p

    I’m surprised that, at least to my knowledge, no one’s every coined a fitting moniker for it that stuck. Here is Fairbanks a building,, the Alaskaland Civic Center and Theater, is affectionately known as ‘the pickle barrel’ due to it’s shape and appearance. In NYC of course you have The Martha Washington Bridge. In Tokyo, atop a building by the riverside, is a gilded artwork know to all in the vicinity as The Golden Turd. But none for the Guggenheim?

    • artmodel says:


      There definitely should be such a moniker for the Guggenheim. How does “psycho circle” sound? Or we could just go with “craphouse”.



  3. That portrait couldn’t be anyone else! It totally works. Beautiful pictures – and if I’ve got a problem with the Guggenheim, it’s the idiotic idea to tilt the floors slightly to allow the spiral structure. That place gives me sore ankles every time I go in there. I guess people have tried “the snail” for a nickname, huh? Not very catchy.

    • artmodel says:


      Thanks! Glad you liked the photos.
      Yes, the Guggenheim is a terrible place to view art. I don’t enjoy going there.
      “Snail” is not a good nickname because it’s an insult to snails, which are way cooler than the Guggenheim 😆


  4. LK says:

    It’s amazing how much I take shadows for granted. As I followed along and read your captions, a different and much more sense of appreciation began to materialize.

    Of course the last shadow is the best one; shadows of you in Central Park make NY look beautiful.

    After all the rumors I’ve heard of the Guggenheim, I never knew it looked…like that. The stacked clay plate thing must have been all the rage when they made it, but I think I could get used to the look; it doesn’t look too bad really.

    Hope you’re doing well,

    • artmodel says:


      I’m so happy to have deepened your appreciation of shadows. They’re easy to overlook but really deserve to be noticed. I had fun photographing them!

      The Guggenheim design is that of Frank Lloyd Wright. Don’t know if that makes it better but there you have it. I guess it’s not too bad. I’m thinking maybe it’s just too WHITE. Like a marshmallow.

      Thanks for your lovely comments, friend.


  5. Andrew says:

    The title of this entry reminds me of a German movie called Kirschblüten, or Cherry Blossoms.

    A German man visiting his son in Tokyo discovers a Japanese girl dancing with her shadow in the park. He asks her to teach him this form of Butoh dance, because his recently deceased wife enjoyed this same dance. The girl says the dance is a way of communicating with her deceased mother… thus the basis for a common bond. Most memorable line in the movie as they are traveling to Mount Fuji, and the girl explains that it is often too cloudy to get a good view of the mountain: “Fuji-san is very shy.”

    Good film if you get the chance to see it.

  6. fred says:

    Wow, I think I’m going to have to step up and defend the Guggenheim. Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of cast concrete is a bit problematic as it tends to crack and stain, but the design is highly original and I think the rotunda is a majestic and unusual space on the inside, and a great place to see certain kinds of art, such as recent retrospectives of Kandinsky and Brancusi. I love the helical path, which gives a kind of looping continuity to a big exhibit that works a lot better for me than rectangular boxes. Wright was way ahead of his time, using organic and sculptural forms while nearly everyone else was making corporate cubicle stacks out of glass and steel. Is that really what you all would prefer? Not me. And why do the floors have to be flat? Hills are good for you! Don’t we have enough flatness in every built place that we can appreciate a gentle slope, just for a bit of variety?

    • artmodel says:


      If the alternative is “corporate cubical stacks out of glass and steel”, then no, I wouldn’t prefer that. What I prefer is the Met 🙂

      Your point is well taken that certain kinds of art (e.g. Kandinsky) lend themselves better to the Guggenheim than others. Although I will disagree about the hilly floors. I do enough exercise on my own time. I don’t want it while I’m looking at art!

      In my above comment to LK, I mentioned the whiteness of the exterior, and I think that’s what bothers me more than anything. It’s just so damn WHITE! Looks like a big chalk block. I’m curious to know how that building would look in a warmer, more subtle tone rather than that harsh white.

      I’m sure the spirit of the Guggenheim appreciates your passionate defense!


  7. fred says:

    No argument with the shadows, though. Mottled light is a beautiful thing, and you’ve captured it beautifully here.

  8. Vishinsky Designs says:

    Shadows and the way in which light travels or hits an object lets you perceive things differently. I have personally painted a few pictures that look different with minimal light, which many people have enjoyed. I love photos with great shadows and photos that don’t hide things objects like in the first photo you can see street signs and that hand thing that tells you when to cross. I love NY.

    • artmodel says:


      Oh yes, shadows rock! When I’m art modeling, I love it when interesting light is set up, creating shadows on the figure and the face. Like you said, it makes the viewer perceive things differently.

      Thanks for commenting!


  9. babahr says:

    I saw some early renderings of the museum by Wright/his firm and it was RED. And I mean red.

    • artmodel says:


      Red? Really? Ugh! That’s sounds horrible. In that case I’ll take the white! Although I like to envision some kind of pale blue shade.

      Nice to hear from you!


  10. Jennifer says:

    Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve downloaded the photos to add to my own of New York (being far more artistic than any of my point and snap camera-phone pix!) – they’re in a folder labelled ‘Claudia’s Shadows’! When I first looked at them, I commented that they very much fitted in with my experience of a sunny Saturday in NYC, but since then I’ve been to the Guggenheim and walked across the Central Park so the photos are even more relevant!

    Interesting too, to read the opinions of the Guggenheim. I was surprised to read that it’s so disliked by New Yorkers, as we studied it in Art History and were encouraged to think very highly of it and the seminal position it holds in architecture. For myself – my feeling was that it was fine to have something a bit different, even if the architecture impinged to an extent on the viewing of the art. Art viewing can be very tiring, so it can help to have something to keep you more alert – although unfortunately I wasn’t overly fussed on the exhibition in the spiral. Perhaps a reference to the way the building can tend to overshadow the art, there was also an exhibition devoted to ‘using the void’, which was varied, entertaining and often irreverant – some very amusing suggestions for using the void! (mmm, chocolate mousse void …)

    There was also a note on the conservation of the Gugg, which stated that they’d been unsure after the conservation, whether to return to FLW’s original yellowy tone or stick with the white it had been repainted at some point- they stuck with the white, which it seems may have been a mistake (or perhaps yellow would have made it stand out too much among its fellow buildings?). ‘Marshmallow’ would certainly be a suitable nickname! As you say, I wonder why it’s never earnt one? Perhaps Guggenheim has enough nickname quality of itself? Sometimes buildings earn nicknames that they just don’t deserve, e.g. ‘the Gherkin’ in London’s City district. It’s a beautiful building, a relief from all the mindless block-building, a real stand-out, but it’s always known as the rather derogatory ‘Gherkin’ (a bit of a blow for Swiss Re, who own it – at least Guggenheim wasn’t cheated of his ‘immortality’ by a nickname!).


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