Author Archives: Kathleen Hulser

About Kathleen Hulser

Kathleen Hulser is an independent historian who manages cultural projects and teaches at Pace University in New York City. She is currently working on a film/exhibition project about an early 20th century caricaturist, "Rediscovering Kate Carew," and co-curating and exhibition about World War I Volunteers.

Volunteers: Americans Join World War One


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Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas as volunteer drivers, with their Ford "Auntie" They drove ambulances, bandaged the wounded, fed the hungry, ran hospitals and orphanages and raised money. The men and women who volunteered in Europe during the early years of the Great War – when the United States maintained neutrality – forged a template for modern humanitarian efforts.

Their work helped to pioneer ways to negotiate aid around the interests of warring countries, and created the infrastructure for food relief and other efforts. These activities are featured in The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I, 1914-1919, a new teacher’s curriculum launched in conjunction with an exhibition at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, opening in April. Continue reading

Wild History Tales From St. Marks Place, NYC


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Tish and Snooky, punk rock boutique Manic Panic at 33 St. Marks Place.

“The street has provided generation after generation with a mystical flash of belonging… experiences of mortal peril, dissipation and adventure…” writes Ada Calhoun in her new book St. Marks’s Is Dead. Her wry and witty journey through history notes that each generation plunged in the excitement and grunge of the Lower East Side street proclaims its own moment “the golden age,” while bemoaning subsequent events as the death of the place’s “true essence.” That heart might be an immigrant’s dream, revolution, creativity, dissent, fashion experiment or altered consciousness.

Her bedlam of voices making these claims is entertaining and illuminating, the voluble chatter of participants, residents, business folks and dissidents who gave the street its gritty allure. Calhoun conducted over 200 interviews to assemble this history, and they range from obscure rantings of yesteryear to tales of the poor and famous. You will hear from Leon Trotsky, W.H. Auden, Debbie Harry, Klaus Nomi, street people, skate-boarders, drag queens and theater operators. Emma Goldman, famed anarchist, ran the Modern School for a while, where ardent revolutionaries could learn from the works of Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx. Pamela Moore, a pulp novelist of the 1960s described the creative invasion of the 1950s as “their own brand-new Beatnikville where the artists had moved in on the Slavic factory hands and all lived together in glorious, outrageous, dedicated poverty!” Continue reading

Caribbean Connections: 6 Printmakers


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Francks Deceus. Jumpsuit, 2002Since colonial times, the port city of New York has sent ships, goods and ideas to the Caribbean which in turn dispatched its own flow of staples, people, symbols and imaginative language North.

In the new show at Harlem’s Wintner-Tikhonova Fine Art Gallery open till Jan. 17, Caribbean artists show varieties of imagination rooted in that history of exchange. Francks Deceus from Haiti offers an abstracted photographic image of a dapper suited man in derby hat imprinted on an outlined version of a worker’s jumpsuit, evoking the urban and rural amalgam that haunts the identity of so many New Yorkers hailing from the Caribbean. Continue reading

Converting A Historic Jail To Women’s Activism


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Women exchanging ideas. Photo:Kathleen HulserArt deco murals, decorative brick work, mosaics – not quite what you expect to encounter at a women’s prison. The Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility at 550 West 20th Street in Manhattan was built in 1931 as a YMCA for merchant sailors. Converted to a prison, it was closed after Superstorm Sandy flooding and is now being converted to a Women’s Building. As an adaptive reuse, the main building will be preserved with some elements that reflect the history, even as the site is re-purposed as a women-focused community facility. Continue reading

Corset Portraits of the Loves of Aaron Burr


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Madame+Jume_RGB.BillOrcuttArtist Camilla Huey has a close to the skin interpretation of founding father Aaron Burr. While we know about his schemes to gain and keep political power, Huey tempts us to think about Burr’s gender politics. Was the former Vice-President who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel, a full-fledged Lothario, or might there be another story?

The film “The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Binding and Corsetry”  premiering at Symphony Space at 95th St. and Broadway in Manhattan on Saturday, November 14 at noon offers a much more complicated and nuanced view of the man and his significant female others.  As Thomas Paine wrote in that revolutionary era “If we take a survey of the countries and the ages… we will find the women adored and oppressed. Man who has never neglected an opportunity of exerting his power,  in paying homage to their beauty has always availed himself of their weakness… at once their tyrant and their slave.” Continue reading

Harlem: Life in Pictures


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Malcolm X- Rally for Birmingham, 1963. by Larry Fink. All images courtesy of Ilon Art Gallery

Malcolm X- Rally for Birmingham, 1963. by Larry Fink. Images Courtesy of Ilon Art Gallery

“If new thought can enter the mind, even for a moment, then change has a chance,” writes JT Liss. His photographs search for those figures and visions that allow us to see new ways and think new thoughts.

Ilon Gallery’s show Harlem: Life in Pictures on view in a classic 1890s brownstone, demonstrates how historic images of figures that have become iconic can acquire new resonance when displayed along fresh takes on a neighborhood that has been a cradle of creativity for well over 100 years. Continue reading

Voodoo Opera from Harlem Renaissance


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Barry Robinson as Fojo, the voodoo priest and Janinah Burnett as Lolo, a thwarted lover who resorts to voodoo rites.Magic rites in the jungle seal the fate of a love triangle in the long-forgotten opera of H. Lawrence Freeman restaged on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Voodoo was composed in 1914 and had its last performance in 1928. The music and libretto come from a composer who was a friend of Scott Joplin. author of more than 20 operas, and founder of the Harlem Renaissance’s Negro Grand Opera Company. The revival features Gregory Hopkins of Harlem Opera Theatre conducting in a production that drew on collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players and the Morningside Opera. Continue reading

Aaron Burr Revised: Conspiracy, Treason and Justice


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Aaron Burr by John Vanderlyn in 1809. Courtesy of New-York Historical SocietyWho remembers Aaron Burr as anything more than Quick Draw McGraw shooting down the near-sighted Alexander Hamilton at dawn in 1804? But there is much more to the man, as Gore Vidal revealed in his intriguing 1973 historical novel, and other subsequent scholarship.

Two aspects of Burr’s varied career stand out in today’s world. First, his treason trial that closely examined issues of what counts as an act of war against one’s own government. And second, his relationships with a series of highly intelligent and accomplished women, reflecting his high opinion of the female sex and its potential. Continue reading

New Basquiat Exhibit In Brooklyn


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HollywoodAfricans.Basquiat.1983.WhitneyThe tragically short career of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) has created a penumbra of martyred glory around his work. This must give him a chuckle wherever his spirit looks down on the shuffling hordes trekking to view his work reverently installed at the Brooklyn Museum.

Basquiat was born as a spray-can wielding street artist who liked mess, disorder and chaos. How different was he, when beatified by art gallery recognition and patron purchases? In his art world heyday he got his fine new designer clothes just as stained as his thrift shop threads from his early days. Continue reading