Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Autumn in New York: the Good, the Bad and the Scary

The view from my window as I write the following...

Seems I'm not able to leave the sheep behind me.
Here in Chelsea on 24th Street and 10th Avenue, they've taken over a Getty gas station.

They're by the late French artist Francois-Xavier Lalanne, 
sponsored by Michael Shvo who will at some point plunk some condos down in their place.
Back on the Isle of Mull, there are no plans to take away the sheep and 
put up too many annoying structures. 

This one is staring me down...

...just like that one was staring Hal down.

You may remember Hal being chased by sheep in a former Scotland blog post.
These Manhattan animals behave themselves all too well.
I say bring on the real thing.
More sheep!  Less condos!

If you don't remember Hal's big adventure, you can remind yourself here:

Look, it's a Hal's brother on the subway!

After the sheep, I trek on to the Mike Weiss Gallery to see:

KAORUKO, above, speaks to an interested couple.

Her work is appealing, subversive, sexy, innocent.
It explores the nature of the young girl, smooth and silky, who loves to exult in her own skin
and decorate her body with patterns. 
She places herself in provocative positions, not to attract sexual attention,
but because it pleases her sense of her own aesthetic/sensual identity.
And everything she does is an aesthetic experience,
even sitting on the toilet.

It is the Japanese ukiyo-e "floating world" drifting into our own time.
And it gets a lot of attention.

Here I'm running into more back-sides, much like the ones I explored in
my last blog post.
Well, maybe explored isn't quite the term I'm looking for.

And here's an example of foreshortening par excellence,
the foot coming at us, showing us an expanse of pale skin
that is perhaps not the skin our voyeuristic eye is looking for.
The foot is a shield, an impermeable barrier.

With this foot, I'm compelled to think of the prototype foreshortening example, 
taught in Art Survey courses (which I teach) by Mantegna,
who gave us the Lamentation of Christ from a vantage point
that had not been offered before his time...

...the Renaissance.  He knew the rules of perspective,
but he also knew that if he showed us the true size of Jesus's feet from this vantage point,
they would take over the painting and make it less than, hmmm, solemn and mournful.
So he fudged on the feet,
as Kaoruko does not, because her work is not concerned with the solemn and mournful.

Her character is willing to show the massive size of her pale foot 
because she is secure within her insouciant self.

The girls in these paintings form a self-sufficient inner circle - 
they need and want nothing from us except our adulation and helpless desire.

Hmmm, I'm looking now upon those two women at the side of Jesus...
talk about adulation and helpless desire...

Well, enough compare-and- contrast.
Let us instead continue with our foreshortening lesson for the day:

Here endeth the lesson.

Speaking of religion, it appears that 
someone has dropped (thrown?) their rosary beads onto the third rail
at the Sheepshead Bay station,
where they have fallen into the stones.

Well, from the sacred to the profane:

This is a "hotel" right behind our studio, on Schermerhorn St. (near where 
the police have their cop-shop, ironically) that existed for decades
as a hot-sheets hotel ("by-the-day" was code for "by-the-hour").
This is the old Downtown Brooklyn, fast disappearing into condos and
 big-time boosterism.
Indeed, here's a video called "I'll Take Brooklyn" set
to the music of, of course, "I'll Take Manhattan" extolling the virtues of

...which no longer includes the Prince Hotel.
As I snapped these pics, a smooth dude walked by and
said, Jesus, the hotel is closed?  Where we gonna get our sex now?
And around the corner on Hoyt Street, the old Welfare building is being condoed out!

Will our studio around the corner be next????

Speaking of smooth dudes, here's one in a cool mood on the F-train subway platform.

And here's another, on the pavement at Kingsborough.

Here I'm cabbing over the Manhattan Bridge, trying to catch the sun between buildings.


And here I am on the Bowery, specifically 93 Bowery,
which is not the Bowery everyone used to know and love... sporting a monster hotel, the "Wyndham Garden Chinatown"
which had a fraught history even before being finished,
being responsible for the destabilization and ultimate razing of a nearby building,
among other sins, like just being too big and flashy and unnecessary.

Its PR claim to fame is being in one of the "trendiest" neighborhoods in New York City,
exemplified by this Bowery fashion site a couple of blocks up.
Now, this is the Bowery we know and love!
The Wyndham Garden Chinatown should have settled in Downtown Brooklyn
if it wanted to be in a trendy neighborhood.

Here's a Park Slope resident who knows what's up, and who to blame!
Bloomy (Mayor Bloomberg) was so pro-business that any remnants of
New York's bohemian, gritty flair are almost gone.
Not to romanticize the mean streets too much, but there is a point
at which things get just too Disney-ed out.

Bloomy is no longer in charge, however.
His three terms are currently ending.
In fact, today is election day, and his replacement, almost certainly Bill DeBlasio,
will soon rule.

These Park Slopians have made a miracle - they've turned a stately
Brooklyn brownstone into trailer trash!
Go figure.
 (Okay, it's not technically brownstone - more greystone, really...picky, picky.)

Now I'm in the G-train station on the Saturday night before Halloween.

Costumes abound.

I notice that I am on the train with Jesus.

And his companions.

Strangely enough, I get off at the same station as they do.

So I follow Jesus.  For a time.
 Up the stairs and through the train station.
But then, sadly, I must turn away
to travel my own path while Jesus and his entourage travel theirs.

The reason why I was on the G train on a Saturday night was because
my work was featured in a fabulous event, a screening
at Union Docs in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where they're showing my
video, "An Accelerating Decline."

Here I am, following the crowd, most, if not all of them streaming to the event that I'm starring in... part of "SCENE:  Brooklyn" sponsored by the amazing Brooklyn Arts Council.
This program features short videos that deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and
New Yorker's relationship to the waterways and shorelines of the city.

"Made before Hurricane Sandy, and pointing to a grave and uncertain future, “An Accelerating Decline” takes the viewer on an eerie journey through city and country, floating through a landscape fraught with apocalyptic messages.  The title was taken from a graph depicting the fall of the housing market, but it becomes a metaphor for the deteriorating state of our environment."
(From the pr for "SCENE:  Brooklyn)

 It's an awesome event, and my work is chosen to be shown again in DUMBO 
at the Brooklyn Arts Council gallery on Nov. 7, 2013!
 "Scene: Brooklyn screening is presented in conjunction with the BAC Gallery exhibition,
 "For & About: Art & Reactions to Superstorm Sandy" during the DUMBO 1st Thursday Gallery Walk.                                                       
After this event, I walk through Williamsburg and see this storefront, 
a place teaching people to paint!
I applaud their efforts, but the results are, well, a bit saccharine?  Every work exactly the same
garish colors and formulaic composition?

I think I'm doing a better job with my students at Kingsborough.
Here they are doing a monotonal underpainting as a value study.

Here are two students who like to work on the same imagery, 
which I don't necessarily encourage, but they insist, and they do
have their own subtle differences.

I just love this painting, although the student is less sure.  
In fact, he sees it as incomplete and ugly
while I find it beautiful and lyrical.

I tell the class my Clement Greenberg "shoot the artist" story,
where on one of our Sunday visits at his
Central Park West apartment in the upper 80's, (name and place dropping!) 
he told me he would visit artist's studios and see work
that he thought was perfect, and they would
invariably say, oh, it's not finished, it needs this, or that...
and he would say, time to shoot the artist.
The students laugh, sort of.

Earlier on the Kingsborough campus I saw one of my major autumn pet peeves:
a freaking LEAF BLOWER!
The idiocy of this invention boggles my mind.
And KCC is supposed to be a "green" campus.
Whats's "green" about using an inefficient fume-spewing ear-splitting device
to, uh, rake up leaves on a windy morning?

To see some fall color and enjoy the unraked expanses of the park (in parts, anyway),
I walk up to Prospect Park, where the first thing I see is this memorial... a young boy playing soccer who was hit by a white van and killed.

As I'm standing there reading the poignant letters, a black car
whips right behind me, on the left side of the road, nearly hitting me!
He drives into the park, and then parks.

This is totally illegal!

I snap photos from afar, not wanting to get to close to whatever weirdness is going down
inside that car.
Maybe he's just eating lunch,
but something creeps me out about the whole thing.
I do manage to enjoy the fall colors, and the fallen, unraked leaves...

...but as I'm leaving, a white van whips by...
creeping me out all over again,

and the black car is still there...

...and this sign near the boy's memorial seems somehow ominous...

...and I'm reminded of how much I hate the stupid ugly "cobweb" crap that people
drape obsessively on their houses and stoops...

...Run, run for your life!

Whew!  Made it.  Back at home, things look up.

Frank and I host an intimate dinner party, and the apartment smells wonderful.
Fruit and Stilton cheese!  What could be better?

Well, maybe a little tuna carpacchio with capers and shaved parmesan cheese?

Julia watches Frank do his magic, like open the fabulous bottle of wine they brought,
while I hover in the mirror,
and hover again, while Steven snaps his own pic.

And just look at these beautiful trees on 7th Avenue in Park Slope!

What's not to like about fall in the city?


  1. Loved the Brooklyn video! Growing up in the East New York section of Brooklyn, we would often take a trip to Downtown Brooklyn to shop. We would get clothes, Easter hats and fabric for my Mother to make clothes at A&S. In their basement they had sale tables but the big draw for my sister and I was the frozen custard they sold. For 15 cents you could get a glass of vanilla malted custard, plain, with chocolate or strawberry sauce. Oh, what a treat!
    The elevator bank at A&S was so magnificent, lots of marble and beautiful ironwork as I recall.

    In my humble opinion leaf blowers are phallic symbols and are the lazy way of clearing leaves. I loved raking and we'd jump into piles of leaves.
    Thanks Jeanne for another rocking blog!!

  2. The elevator bank at what is currently Macy's must be the same one that was in the old A & S store - it is beautiful. Department stores used to be so elegant. And yes, agreed about the leaf blowers! Thanks for the comments!