When I come back to Vancouver after time in New York I go into comparison mode for a while, looking to see whether the things I love in New York are here too. And I am always delighted when I find out this is true. There are just as many blue-haired people on the streets of Vancouver, only they walk slower!
This series has a sculptural example I found in Vancouver that reminds me of fantastical structures I’ve seen in New York.
I am excited to share Another New York Love Affair #25 with you:
I took this footage of the “Sterling Cooper” building in my final week in New York, at the end of March. At the time I was midway through watching Mad Men on Netflix, and in love with the cast of characters. Also in love with New York, and the beautiful strangeness of Madison Avenue. Enjoy!
I am aiming for 100 over the next three years. I’ve got to get back to New York to do it, though!
Yesterday was the first day of spring, and it snowed in New York. I went for a run as glorious flakes skirled and floated through the air, stage-lit by the lights along the Hudson River walk. It’s a nice hour-long run from my place in the village along the Hudson to the Financial District Ferry Terminal and back.
I passed tennis players on my way to the ferry terminal, enjoying the gentle snowfall, and caught a glimpse of One World, nestled between the legs of two other high rises.
New Yorkers still call this the World Trade Center.
On the way back, I could see the Empire State Building in the distance, over 70 blocks away (the lit tower in the center of the photo). I love seeing these two landmarks as I go about the city. They are orientation touchstones, helping people find their way, much like a striking tree or cliff formation would have guided our ancestors.
I made this video for David, a dear teacher and friend who lived on E. 4th St in his Bohemian days. He lives in California, recently turned 80, and will probably never see this street again. Different friends who lived there tell me it was a dynamic, exciting place in the 50s and 60s. And I think it’s still creative & dynamic, human, real. Sit back and groove…
The Wikipedia history of Alphabet City (a term mayor Ed Koch used in a New York Times article he published in 1984) indicates this was a dangerous part of New York until crime rates dropped in the late 90s and early oughts. I wanted to show my friend how the street he grew up on has changed. That there is love, hope, and people helping each other. He became a spiritual teacher and showed me tremendous kindness on my journey. He helped me experiment, find myself, and mature. I was thrilled to discover the value of teaching expressed in the street art of this block of E. 4th St, between Ave. A and Ave. B. As harsh as it was when he lived here, I think there must be a channel of the ultimate goodness of reality and human nature that rises out of the old salt marshes, up through the earth and concrete, and into the souls of the street’s inhabitants.
Another dear friend, Allan, also a teacher, moved to this block from Long Island in the 60s, the minute he turned 18. That’s why I focused on #217, so he could see how his seedy apartment looks now. He told me about artist-nudist-humanist-activist Louis Abolafia’s presidential campaign in 1967-1968. My friend had just moved to E. 4th St., and Abolafia’s headquarters were in the same street. This street was in the heart of the Lower East Side drug culture in the 60s. Sadly Abolafia died of a drug overdose in California in 1995.
Allan said “I remember Louis Abolafia very well, used to pass his storefront campaign headquarters all the time. I can feel an affectionate warmth for that time and place, and for that young soul wondering, ‘which way from here?’ Everything was alive with possibility, in the neighborhood and the culture, on the streets and in the air. I’m lucky to have lived there and then. It was still slum when I got there, as it was when David grew up. People were just beginning to call it the East Village. But I think that sounded pretentious to many of us who lived there. It was just the Lower East Side, as it had always been.”
Dorian Gray Pub
I am a writer, and I wondered about the pub in this block called Dorian Gray, with the Canadian flag included among the string of flags out front. (David taught a group in Vancouver, BC, for 15 years, and I thought this Canadian flag was a nice reminder of our group and those years.) I wondered if it was some young hipster who didn’t know a thing about Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, first released in a periodical in 1890. A little research revealed that Oscar Wilde’s great-grandnephew opened this pub, and it is a literary hangout. As you will see, Jason Darling is purported to play there on Wednesday nights!
I put a few historical clippings about themes from this block at the end of the video. You can press the Pause button to read them, if you like.
The Blizzard of 2016
I invite you to take some time to sink into the groove and drink in the details of this diverse—alternately rough and polished—creative, expressive street. People might say New York has been gentrified beyond recognition, but I think this block of E. 4th St. shows that it is still a home, a place for children to grow up, a place where people stand on the street together and enjoy each other’s company, and a place for discovery through graffiti, art, theatre, religion, law, psychic consultation, and liquor! And, on special days like this one, a place to chuck a few snowballs.
P.S. Another luminary lived in this block, in a fifth-floor walk-up. Hint: Like a Virgin! Ooh, touched for the very first time… She moved here in about 1978—it was her second New York apartment after moving from Detroit with $35 in her pocket—and she lived in this apartment for a few years before her music career began to take off and she moved to a loft on Broome St. Her song Ray of Light, “And I feel, like I just got home…” feels like an expression of spiritual ecstasy to me, flying through the stars, faster than a ray of light. “Waiting for a time when earth shall be as one.” On E. 4th St., I think it’s like that. Each One Teach One.
Production and Editing Notes
I shot the material for this video during an afternoon a few days after a January snowfall (the blizzard of 2016, during which the mayor closed down the city of Manhattan to wait it out).
This piece is an experiment with moving from stillness into motion and back again. I wanted to linger on some shots to give a longing heart time to drink in every detail of the bricks and paint and tiles and people. Then move more quickly with others to bring dynamism and a hunger for more time. The moving clips bring the immediacy of being there, enhanced by the focus on the sounds of the street.
I used an ancient iPhone 5S! Corel PaintShop Pro Photo for the photo editing. Camtasia Studio to put the video together, with QuickTime Player and Windows Media Player as support for planning the music.
I opened with Richard Hell and the Voidoid’s Blank Generation—a classic that kicked off the punk music wave, influencing Britain’s Sex Pistols and many others. Richard lives in the East Village. I think these lyrics are brilliant, and point to the mysteries of birth, life, and death—something my friend taught me about.
The next two segments had to be Lou Reed. I played around with different alternatives, but for me, Lou Reed’s music epitomizes the East Village, and it had to be him. Looking at these buildings, thinking about his painful life and the poignancy, despair, hope, and joy he wrung out of it through his musical genius, pulls on my heart to soar in that same way.
The closing credit music is Jason Darling playing at the Dorian Gray pub. The sound of breaking glass, a happy crowd, a local musician, and a song about California seemed like a perfect closing for David. Thanks to Tadhg Ennis for posting this recording on YouTube.
Here is an alternative version, with Lou Reed’s Heroin as the only music. Let me know which one you like better!
Andy Warhol added to the popularity of the image of Campbell’s soup when he began painting the cans in 1962. Certainly it was innovative to use an everyday object as the focus of artwork, and I think Warhol deserves the kudos he received for this irreverent innovation that shocked the art world at the time. At a recent MOMA exhibit, the colours and images of the soup cans were used as an iconic touchstone for Warhol’s work.
Seeing the Warhol exhibit at MOMA, I began to wonder about the appeal of this image that has become almost as pervasive as Coca-Cola. (Note that both these products use an iconic cursive script that evokes an old-timey, homey feeling. Shockingly, today’s British Columbian schools no longer even teach handwriting! It is indeed becoming a thing of the past.) Campbell’s soup is on every store’s shelf in North America, from the biggest supermarket chains to the smallest out-of-the-way bodega in Big Sur! According to Campbell’s US website, Campbell’s tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, and cream of mushroom soup are each numbered in the top 10 “shelf-stable” food items sold in US grocery stores today.
So who deserves the credit for creating a package design with such universal appeal? I think it’s the commercial designer who designed the Campbell’s soup can in 1898, when a company executive, Herberton L. Williams, attended a Cornell-Penn football game and was impressed with Cornell’s brilliant new red-and-white uniforms. According to The New York Times, when asked the question of who designed the label, the company spokesperson said it was a joint effort, with different elements contributed by different people over the years. For example, the Campbell’s script was based on Campbell’s own signature. In 1900 they added the gold medallion that Campbell’s won at the Paris world exposition.
The basic label has changed very little since then. I just saw a Campbell’s tomato soup can in Big Sur that looks exactly the same as the can in my toy kitchen in 1970. (The 20 billionth can of tomato soup was produced in January 1990.)
Sure, there are some new twists to the packaging, like the can I photographed in my Mushroom Soup series, which boasts Vitamin D and real cream. There is a cream of potato soup that says it’s made with “fresh Canadian potatoes” too. So Campbell’s is trying to keep us hooked as we become more health conscious, and has different packaging for Canada and the US. They redesigned the label in 2010, retaining the red and white elements but adding a swirl around the mid-section. However, the top three flavours mentioned previously retain the classic label.
Sadly, my tastes have moved away from canned soup altogether. But when I see a can of Campbell’s soup, it tugs at my heart. The positive associations of many childhood lunches of Campbell’s tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches–this totally defined comfort food for me. And what about putting that cream of mushroom soup into a macaroni and cheese casserole. Brilliant! Or using it as a topping for porkchops. I do harbor a secret wish for these delights from a simpler millenium.
On the other hand, I had a boyfriend once whose culinary crowning glory was a mixture of unheated, undiluted Campbell’s mushroom soup mixed with tuna on toast. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds. Even Campbell’s soup can be used for good or evil!
The story of Campbell Soup began more than 140 years ago, in 1869, when Joseph Campbell, a fruit merchant, and Abraham Anderson, an icebox maker, formed the Joseph Campbell Preserve Company in Camden, New Jersey producing and selling canned fruits and vegetable preserves. It wasn’t until 1897 that the concept of condensed soup was born, due to the genius of the then 24-year-old Dr. John T. Dorrance—a nephew of the company’s general manager, and a chemist—who invented condensed soup. (Think what an impact this invention has had on our world!) Dorrance later became president of the company from 1914 to 1930. The original label looked like the ones shown above.
I think one of the reasons we love the Campbell’s soup design is that is it something that remains unchanged. It evokes our nostalgia, our longing for a simpler time, for childhood pleasures. It is an archetypal image in our collective unconscious, and this is what it symbolizes for us.
For me, when I saw a stack of Campbell’s soup cans in Val and Garry’s cupboard, it sent me on a two-day romp through the forest hiding cans for when they returned, and it led to an explosion of artistic inspiration. I hear that several Chelsea galleries in Manhattan also recently featured artists whose work included Campbell’s soup cans. So it’s not just me that still goes crazy for these red-and-white darlings!
If you’re interested in reading more about the history of Campbell’s soup, check out this Canadian site and this UK site.
I took this photo series while I was creating the Warhol in the Forest treasure hunt for Val and Garry at Starshine Valley. It was mid-September, and mushrooms were blooming shyly, peeping out from grasses and bits of wood.
When I contemplated taking the step of offering my artwork for sale online, Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Love for Sale came into my mind. Hence this post’s title. However, the two are not so far apart, as creating art is an expression of my heart that has a component of love in it, whatever else might be part of the stew.
Now that I’ve had my first exhibit, the next logical step seems to be to offer my work for sale to a broader audience. So it’s official. If you saw the video and liked the creative inspiration that arose from my photo series Shadow Play, I invite you to send me some money and make one or more of these images your own.
Since the series is about playing with an image and seeing its different moods, most people found it hard to pick just one that they liked the best. So I am going to offer variable pricing based on the number of pieces you select:
One shadow play: $99
Two shadow plays: $149
Three shadows playing: $219
All 14 shadows: $879
You will receive the artwork printed on glossy photo stock, 8.5×11.
To expedite shipping, I will mail the pieces unframed and ready for mounting. I’ve adjusted the prices accordingly. I suggest using a 10×13 frame, but you can do whatever you like with the piece once it’s in your hands!
Contact me if you’d like to put my shadows on your wall.
P.S. The grand-daddy print, 7 ft x 9 ft, ink on canvas, is $1,900.
As many of you know, I had my first art exhibit at the Havana Art Gallery, 1212 Commercial Drive in Vancouver, August 6 to 19, 2015.
The opening was on Sunday night (August 9), and it was a really fun event with family and friends choosing which piece they liked the best. I made a video showing their choices, and something strange happened–they started morphing into the picture!
If you like it, please give it a thumbs up. The video takes the art project to the next step of its expression, from applying the concept to a single image to applying it to dozens of faces. I think it’s pretty cool! (Of course the music helps!) A big shout out to Miguel Wisintainer for the remix of Gary Numan’s “You Are in My Vision.”