Still Crazy After All These Years

Low Tide - Old Saybrook

Low Tide – Old Saybrook

I spent a large part of last week and the Labor Day weekend back in my Connecticut home town, relaxing a little before the start of the new school year.  It was wonderful to catch up with my family, to turn off my work email, and to do almost nothing productive. But I did stop in at my undergraduate art school, Lyme Academy, to view the current alumni and student exhibits, and I was struck both by the quality of the art and how different it is from what I see in New York.

Jack Broderick's La Boca

Jack Broderick’s
La Boca

Lyme Academy teaches the skills needed to produce representational and figurative art. At the School of Visual Arts where I’m getting my M.F.A., skills are rarely discussed, and aside from a few of us diehards the students are not producing representational work.  It’s all abstract, and conceptual, and performance, and video.

Alex Cox Untitled

Alex Cox

When I’m in Old Lyme, my heart sings to see blue shadows cross nude figures and then climb up the wall.  When I’m in New York, I respond to pain and ugliness in art.  In Connecticut I will spend two or three hours drawing the random still life on the coffee table – emphasizing light and dark, perfecting the ovals that represent circles in perspective, and working very hard to achieve a likeness of my subject matter.  There is no such thing as too much time spent drawing the label on a Poland Springs bottle.

Andrea Anderson's Max Thompson Chevy

Andrea Anderson’s
Max Thompson Chevy

But in New York I draw with my left hand to achieve an unattractive immediacy. Everything is faster and uglier.

One of my New York pieces   with an unquotable title.  At 8 months old, it is due for urban renewal.

One of my New York pieces with an unprintable title. At 8 months old, it is due for urban renewal.

So after this weekend, I finally get it.  Rural coastal Connecticut is full of the seascapes and portraits that are made by artists who know in their bones that life hasn’t changed much in fifty years, and is unlikely to change much in the next fifty.  The tide will always take six hours to go out and another six to come in.  It is possible to paint on the beach for hours and not see more than a dozen people, at least once school starts.

Still low tide in Old Saybrook

Still low tide in Old Saybrook

But in New York, a 20-year-old building is considered old and ripe for tear-down. Walking people regularly race cabs at intersections because they’re in such a hurry. There are beggars on half of the corners I pass.  My realizations aren’t new or profound. You have just to look at Andrew Wyeth versus the Abstract Expressionists, or Edward Hopper lighthouses versus Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie.  Where we live and work greatly affects what we make.

I guess my question now is whether it’s possible to go beyond back-and-forth and actually integrate what’s happening in the various art worlds. There is pain in small-town New England, just as there is great beauty in the city.  But am I a good enough artist to show you?





Am I a New Yorker Yet?

I now own four black skirts, four black tee shirts, three black sweaters, five pairs of black pants, seven pairs of black shoes, and two black messenger bags.  When I arrived a year ago I’m pretty sure I was wearing pink.


I do most of my furniture shopping on the sidewalk the night before trash collection.

Sidewalk Treasure

Sidewalk Treasure

Also much of my art supply shopping.

The last time I ate at a friend’s house, there were eight of us: two Americans, two from China, two Brazilians, one Argentinian, and one from Paris/Brazil/the Bronx.  Dinner conversation was in five languages, I only understand one and a half of them, and I had a great time.

If the subway doesn’t go there, I walk.

looking East from my roof

Looking East from my roof

My local convenient store is owned by a nice Pakistani man and his grown son.  There is a 7-Eleven two doors closer.  Why would I go there?  My hardware store is also family owned.  They scream at each other and I find that comforting.  I can barely squeeze through the aisles.  They must be violating 27 fire department codes.  I don’t care.  They have the best drain cleaner for $5.

I’ve realized that I don’t, in fact, live alone.  I live with family.  They’re called doormen.

My apartment is about 400 square feet.  I’m wondering if it’s not a little too big for me.

the view from my apartment

The view from my apartment

I’ve given up on Whole Foods and have embraced Trader Joe’s.  (Except for Diet Coke and peanut butter.  Then I’m off to Gristede’s.)

I think New Yorkers are really nice people – caring, eager for conversation and connection, and generally quite polite.