Newtown Creek Armada Project and the Black Mayonnaise

Foreword & photographs by Kerosene Rose. Interview by Sean Alday.

Like many people, I have loved boats and all things water-related since I was a child. Last year in Portland, Oregon, I got a job at the waterfront science museum, excited that they have a submarine. On my first lunch break, I stopped by and was shocked that the submarine didn’t have windows. The sub staff said with a laugh, ‘You don’t want to see what’s down there’ as the river is so polluted only the drunk would dare swim in it. To me, the pollution only increased interest to see what’s below the sparkly surface. Disheartened, I never returned to the submarine.

When I heard about The Newtown Creek Armada Project, the child in me was jumping with joy. Three gorgeous remote-controlled boats with GoCams that video record the water promises fun and beautiful footage, not to mention the eco-sense of having this project in Newtown Creek, in Greenpoint – one of America’s most polluted waterways to raise eco-awareness. Art, fun and learning; what could be better?

The Newtown Creek Armada is cleverly actualized by three Brooklyn artists, Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson Wright and commissioned by nbART (North Brooklyn Public Art Coalition), an open call seeking environmentally and sustainability-conscious art installations.

Needless to say, I was excited to meet up with Sarah Nelson Wright at Brooklyn Fireproof with writer Sean Alday to learn more about The Newtown Creek Armada. While the full project will be launched this September, we suggest you stop by and see the progress and the process this weekend at Bushwick Open Studios.

Locations & Dislocation by Sarah Nelson Wright

Sean: Tell me about yourself.
SNW: I’m from the Bay Area in California. I’d been to New York a few times before moving here to work on an MFA in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter. It took a while before I began thinking of myself as an artist. I worked with a non-profit and expected to do that.

From that I began doing socially-engaged media art. I had a studio in Greenpoint and have lived in the same apartment for the last nine years.

ATTACHMENT, by Sarah Nelson Wright & Nathaniel Lieb

Sean: What made you move your studio to Bushwick?
SNW: We were interested in the creative atmosphere in Bushwick. Part of it was being able to participate in Bushwick Open Studios. The area has been inspirational and interesting. This location, being so close to the Newtown Creek makes it so that we can walk a few blocks to do work on the Newtown Creek Armada project.

Sean: Sorry to interrupt, but aside from research, what do you do there?
SNW: I put on my haz-mat suit first and I have gathered and disinfected things along the creek bed and decorated the boats with the material. At the bottom there’s something known as “Black Mayonnaise” which is the sludge from the barges and ships that come into the creek. It’s an operational creek for shipping. I’ve scouted locations for the boat launch later this year.

ATTACHMENT, by Sarah Nelson Wright & Nathaniel Lieb

Sean: What do you plan on doing for BOS?
SNW: I walked all over Brooklyn Fireproof last year and got to know people that have been working nearby for a while. It’s a great chance to see people’s work and their studios. A lot of the time it seems that you see people in passing and you don’t know what’s going in their studio. For example, in our studio, you come in and see a lot of desks. The question that people must be asking themselves is ‘Are these people artists?’

We are going to be showing the Armada though. Which is great because it’s a tangible object of what we do. I’ll be showing some examples of the interactive sculptures I’ve done in the past. Some work with Nathaniel Lieb.

Sean: Were you open last year?
SNW: Yes. I met tons of new people and saw a lot of interesting artwork. I was also able to visit a few other buildings too. I have a friend [Nathaniel Lieb] in 56 Bogart and went to see his studio and visit other studios there.”

Sean: Any favorite hangout spots in the neighborhood?
SNW: I like to eat at the tortilla factory for lunch. That’s always fun. The bar downstairs has a great happy hour. It’s nice to invite people over for a studio visit and then take them to the bar.


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950 Hart: Community and Art

I got a chance to sit down with Michael Kronenberg and Sean Alday of 950 Hart and discuss with them how and why they ended up in Bushwick over any other neighborhood, what excites them about it, and what trials and tribulations come with inhabiting an old warehouse while simultaneously running a business and moderating couch-surfers. I’d also requested an interview from the (in)famous new Bushwick mega gallery, Luhring Augustine, about why they’d moved to Bushwick, and got a simple reply that they were “seeking warehouse space, the neighborhood is easily accessible to the Williamsburg bridge and the LIE, and that there are great buildings in the neighborhood.”

JH: Were you in Bushwick first, and then decided to start the gallery?

MK: Yeah, I came here first and then we started.

JH: What made you end up here?

MK: I came out here to get as much space as possible for as cheap as possible. I had a friend who was very savvy about Brooklyn neighborhoods, and he said I should really move to Brooklyn because it’s ridiculously cheap. He said ‘there’s those big loft buildings off the Dekalb stop,’ and when I got here it was the middle of nowhere. That was 8 years ago. The building I moved into was in rough shape. The L train was pretty unreliable. There was a lot of space. I sat on the floor and thought ‘I could rollerblade around here!’ and it was the same price as some 200 square foot studio in Manhattan. C-Town used to be stocked with huge bags of rice and beans, now they have sushi and organic stuff. It’s really changed.

JH: Did it seem like a promising neighborhood for the arts?

MK: No, I had no idea Bushwick would ever be on the map. It was so isolated. It seemed like a good place to go and disappear.

JH: Is there another neighborhood that fills that criteria right now?

MK: Maybe Ridgewood, or just farther out east.

SA: Places off the J train, I think.

JH: What about clients getting out here to buy work?

MK: One of the problems is how you get the people with money out here to Bushwick. 56 Bogart is starting to do that, you can see the line of car services outside of the building, because some of these people aren’t going to sit around waiting for the L train.

SA: Yeah, I was bar tending the NUTUREart benefit the other night, and it was amazing to see gallerists from the other galleries in the building grabbing collectors and dragging them down the hall to their space.

JH: Do you plan on moving somewhere cheaper, or changing the business around at all, since you have all these loft law issues here?

MK: Yeah, we’re looking into our options.

SA: Instead of trying to carry an albatross of a gallery further out, we’re trying to set up a studio, factory-type setting where we can all work on our own artwork, and put on sort of pop-up shows.

JH: So not having a set exhibition space?

MK: Exactly.

JH: How long have you been putting on shows?

MK: A year and a half.

SA: It’s been 18 months since we started, and 16 months since we started having official shows. By the 25th show we’ll have shown over 60 artists.

JH: What do you have going on for Bushwick Open Studios?

SA: Just to put on a bangin’ show.

MK: Another one of our group shows with our artists.

C’est La Vie is the 27th, and final, show at 950 Hart. Ring #103 to be let in. Here is the facebook event invitation. Artists on view are Eliot Lable, Joana Ricou, Matthew Mahler, Antoinette Johnson, Michael Kronenberg, Gili Levy, Matthew Brennan and Carla Cubit.

Michael Kronenberg in the kitchen of 950 Hart

Work in the exhibition space in the basement

Artwork surrounding studio space and communal living space

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Artist Profile: Jayoung Yoon

Jayoung Yoon did not build a time machine at 109 Ingraham Street in studio #315. Instead, her work makes you “slow down, pause and wait, and then move into a higher consciousness.” You become fully aware of being in the here and now, the present.

She was born and raised in Seoul, Korea, literally traveled all over the world, and came to the states in 2006. After receiving her masters at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, she moved to New York with a friend and found a studio to share in Bushwick. At the time, she had no idea that this area was bursting with artistic creativity. That was two and a half years ago. Of course today, she is very grateful and feels fortunate for choosing the right place.

Jayoung’s art work is delicate, peaceful, and meditative. She is currently working on wearable objects and installations made of human hair.

“Hair is one of the materials and images beings used to explore issues of representation, thought and mind. In respect to its material quality, hair has an ethereal presence and vulnerability, and it represents the visceral qualities of the body.”

What inspires her? Books, Dancing, and Traveling

“I mostly read books about spirituality. The experiences and lessons that I obtain from my readings inspire me and help me to find direction in my own life. “ Her favorite books are The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle and Zero Limits by Joe Vitale.

Another inspiration is dance. Jayoung is currently learning Butoh, a Japanese contemporary dance created by Tatsumi Hijikata. She also regularly practices 5Rhythms, which is a dance and movement mediation created by Gabrielle Roth. The theory is to put the body in motion to still the mind. You can definitely see a relationship with this and her work.

And as I mentioned before, Jayoung has literally traveled all over the world.

“I love traveling because it helps me to question who I am and where I am from. I am not only conscious of my heritage and nationality but also conscious of self-awareness. The moment I saw the rising sun as I crossed the desert in Egypt, the thousands of stars on the horizon in Jaisalmer, India, the moment that time seemed to slow down and I was able to see the individual drops of water in the middle of the Iguazu falls in Argentina, the completely white salt space at the Great Lake of Uyuni, Bolivia, the large darkness of the sea on the seashore at Hawaii, the quietness that surrounded me as I was hang gliding in the sky in Switzerland – these were all awe-inspiring moments. Whenever I confronted these kind of moments, I felt alone and complete. The question of ‘who am I?’ became meaningless because I was who I was in the present moment. At those moments, I didn’t consider the past or the future. There was completion, happiness and perfection.”

Jayoung has participated in Bushwick Open Studios for the past two years. She has met several artists working with different disciplines and made lasting friendships.

What advice does she give to newbies? “Be here with open minds and creative spirits and the willingness of each other,” and of course, “enjoy BOS festival!”

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Artist Profile: JR Larson

Adder Bat, 2011-12, Burlap, Marble, Cotton Yarn, Grass Rope, Copper, Wood, Iron, Bamboo. 73″ x 60″ x 56″

JR Larson

Studio location: The Active Space 566 Johnson Ave, studio #21 on the third floor.

Tell me a little about yourself – where did you grow up, where did you go to school, when did you move to Bushwick, etc.

I’ve only been in Bushwick for a year, though I’ve been an active artist in NYC, LA and Montreal for over a decade

I grew up in the swamplands of southern Mississippi and wandered about the States, eventually found myself apprenticing under the salty ceramic badass Peter Volkous. I briefly attended Rutgers, SMFA Boston, and Mass Arts and am grateful for what I learned at those institutions.  Ultimately, everyone has his or her own way of learning and I found that I thrive in the tradition of apprenticeship.  People are the world’s treasures and their forms of expression are our legacy—their artifacts become our record of time.

Tell me a little about your artistic process.

A lot of time goes into researching my material and I get great joy out of finding and retrieving just the right material for each piece. For example, I have been working with burlap and hand-sewing on paper, and wanted to add a contrasting natural element, then one day I came across caning and realized this was the perfect material to add to my repertoire. It is natural, but woven; familiar, but not an art material, etc. So that was a local find, but have had pine tar shipped from a guy named Sven in Sweden, and regularly travel 10 hours to gather felled trees floating in rivers. I like my materials to have a history.

I’m mixing materials that would be considered traditional, with others that would be considered more common and instead of hiding that fact I choose to let the materials be themselves, I believe in relinquishing that control over the materials. The sculptural forms have a surreal sensibility, while the details of recognizable materials pulls your eye back to “what it is”, so there’s a suspension between knowing and not knowing.

Do you feel that your works has been influenced by the neighborhood?

My work is definitely influenced by the neighborhood.  Not to tiptoe through this; there is a push-pull that happens when a neighborhood goes through a drastic change.  And with all large shifts there is displacement of people, culture, and a past way of life, for better or worse to make room for the new way.  That’s just what change is.  It is in this change that so much miscommunication comes, on all sides of the event.  Many of these topics deal directly to the focus of my work.  I am currently working on sculptures, drawings and videos that present a undefined pre and post apocalyptical culture through a perceived rediscovery of the future and its interrelated associations of language and worship via miss identified communications of self-made icons and artifacts.

Like many artists I have a day job, mine is in the film industry as a DP and Union AC.  The reason I mention it is because it allows me to spend a great amount of time in my studio for long stretches, so I typically make 6-12 pieces at a time that all relate, and that could be a series. When I go out of town for 3 weeks or so, and come back, I have fresh eyes and can properly evaluate what’s successful or not and why. This distance is vital to keeping my work honest and on track.

Who’s your favorite Bushwick artist?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I admire what Jamison Brosseau has been doing, both as a painter and as a host of his space “Wildlife” which he lends to Jon Lutz and others for one-night shows. It’s important to my artistic development to have a community of artists. There is a scene being created by, and for, artists of all types and its one that is not as commercially driven. Of course, there is a lot of momentum being created by the Regina Rex collective and Deborah Brown at Storefront, who are working artists with influential spaces that support the scene. At the end of the day, it feels healthy to be part of a mutually perpetuating, symbiotic situation.

What’s your favorite thing about Bushwick?

The fact that people in Bushwick are committed to a vision is important to me. Regardless of what people think, the rent is not cheap, but it’s akin to participating in a creative think-tank.  I commute to my studio in Bushwick for that reason.

Why do you support the Bushwick arts community?

I’m glad it exists, and I’m glad that its local, people have gotten on the band wagon with food being local and responsible, I believe that art is brain and soul food, so cultivating and supporting all aspects of local arts should be a priority as well.   It’s exciting to witness emerging spaces, and the choices they make as they gain recognition. There are a lot of emerging artists and spaces that you can easily see gaining traction (i.e. Letha Wilson in one of the latest editions of the New Yorker, congrats!), and even if it doesn’t seem that serious now, when you think about a lot of big galleries or artists, they all had their start somewhere. Bushwick is the East Village, or Soho, or Chelsea or LES of our generation.

How are you participating in this year’s Bushwick Open Studios?

My studio will be open for the duration located at: The Active Space 566 Johnson Ave, studio #21 on the third floor.

In addition I plan on sneaking out to see as much as I can, with so many artists and great events  with their doors open I would be a fool not to check it out and support the community.  I look forward to meeting new people and seeing new work.

Stringfellow, 2012, Burlap, Grass Wicker, Cotton Yarn, Brick, Mortar, Tar, Copper, Wood, Iron, 34″ x 27″ x 20″

Undefined #3, 2012, hand dyed Organza, Burlap, Copper, Wood, 20″ x 30″ x 7″

You can see more of JR’s work by clicking here.

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Artist Carol Salmanson, & the Electric Glow

For the latest Bushwick Open Studios artist profile, we visited the lovely Carol Salmanson, a Bushwick-based visual artist working primarily with light and reflective materials. Most recently, Carol had a solo show at Storefront Bushwick gallery on Wilson Avenue, and later this year her work will be on display in a group exhibition curated by Karin Bravin at Lehman College in the Bronx. A studio resident of 56 Bogart for 6 years, Carol has a close connection to many artists and organizations in the building – most notably as the Vice President of the Board at NURTUREart, which took up residence in the basement of 56 Bogart last October.

On a recent cloudy Saturday, Carol welcomed a pair of BOS bloggers to her studio for a peek at her recent work and a crash course in LED lights. We asked Carol a few questions about her art, Bushwick, and the perils of amateur electrical work:

What inspired you to start using light in your work?
I was a painter, but I’d always wanted to work with light because light has a lot of special qualities that I find very magical. So in 2003 or 2004 I finally bit the bullet and forced myself to learn how to work with lights. A friend of mine sat me down and taught me the basics of electronics, and then I figured out the rest!

Then I started working with LEDs. It turns out that there are a lot of different kinds of LEDs. I discovered that if I work with different shapes and colors of LEDs, and also with different types of reflective and transparent materials, it’s almost like painting, but it has the qualities of light.

The show that I have up right now at Storefront and what I’ll be showing primarily [for BOS] is drawing based work. I used LEDs and wire, and backlighting and diffusion to create drawings. I call them gesture drawings. They actually do start with a gesture drawing, and from there I drill holes for the LEDs into plexiglass. I have LEDs going through both sides of the plexi, so that you have wires on both sides of the plexiglass. Then the wires create a drawing, in addition to the LEDs creating the light and the color.  (Watch a video of Carol showing these works at her recent show at Storefront Bushwick gallery. Video by Bushwick Daily.)

How did you learn to do all of this?
It was a steep learning curve. A friend of mine said, “Oh you can learn it! You can learn it!” So he had me over for lunch and he said, “Okay, this is Ohm’s Law… Volts times amps equals watts…” and yadi-yadi-ya. Fortunately, I was fairly decent at algebra, so I could grasp the stuff. And then I started doing a lot of studying on the Internet. I would email lists of questions for him, and he’d email me the answers. And then I just started working with them! And I fell in love with them!

Have you ever had any mishaps with the LEDs? Any lost pieces due to electrical accidents?
No, because this is just 5 volts. But the first time I ever worked with light was in 1995 and I tried neon. I backlit some paintings – and that’s 600 volts – and I touched the bare wires. I screamed at the top of my lungs – totally involuntarily. I later found out that it could have killed me. Now I work with 5 volts!

How long have you been in Bushwick?
I have had my studio in this building for 6 years. There were no galleries here until a year ago last March, and by June 1st there will be 10. I try not to think about what will happen to my rent when my lease is up!

When I first moved in, on one end of the hall were a father and son who manufactured fine apparel for the discerning ferret. And on the other end was a man who manufactured – you know the Sunday hats with all the fancy stuff on them? Well he didn’t have enough space, so the hallway was filled with all these hat trees and all these fancy Sunday hats. Between the two it was pretty wild!

Has your work been influenced by the neighborhood at all?
I guess you could say it is. There is a certain energy in Bushwick that is very raw and it’s very vital. There is a good mix of different kinds of artists, different ages, different everything. Like, if you go to the galleries [in Manhattan] it seems like the galleries are all looking at one thing, but out here it is much more vibrant. It’s almost like a cauldron, like a melting pot.

Have you ever participated in BOS before?
Yes, I did last year.

Any memorable moments?
There were a lot of them! The most memorable thing about last year was that we got tons and tons and tons of people here with no L train. It was really stunning!

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and show us your studio, Carol! You can see more of Carol Salmanson’s work on her website at — but we highly recommend you check it out in person during BOS weekend, in her studio at 56 Bogart. —Written by Lili Rusing. Photographs by Kerosene Rose.

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Artist Profile: 722 Metropolitan

722 Metropolitan
A section of concrete wall has been removed from the studio, exposing a naturally occurring pigeon coop on the other side.

Tell me a little about your artistic process.

The artistic process begins with an investigation into a space. This is an undoing of the creating in one space and presenting in another model of art-making. It begins where it begins. Then there’s the matter of deception…

Do you feel that your works has been influenced by the neighborhood?

The work is certainly influenced by the neighborhood. The very fact of participating in a Bushwick Open Studios while the studio is very much not in Bushwick is exactly what we are talking about. Furthermore, imagery from other neighborhoods, other boroughs even, has been incorporated into the studio and the neighborhood itself (by being outside of the studio building), further muddying the notion of distinctness between part(s) and piece(s) of the city. Our work is rooted in a re-arranging and confusion of those elements.

Who’s your favorite Bushwick artist?

My favorite Bushwick artist (though technically in Ridgewood) would have to be Genesis P-Orridge.

What’s your favorite thing about Bushwick?

My favorite thing about Bushwick is it’s proximity to the neighborhoods around Bushwick.

What changes have you noticed in the time you’ve spent in Bushwick?

Bushwick has changed tremendously since I first moved there in 2004. The loss of the Underground Bushwick Film Festival and the Sanctuary of Hope was significant.

What concerns do you have about the neighborhood?

I am concerned, as my co-worker put it, that Bushwick is becoming a sausage-fest.

Why do you support the Bushwick arts community?

I support the Bushwick Arts Community in that, in some capacity, I am a product of it.

How are you participating in this year’s Bushwick Open Studios?

We are participating in Bushwick Open Studios by opening up our Williamsburg studio as an examination of the space and natural life in which it occurs.

Any memorable moments from past Bushwick Open Studios?

I remember distinctly at one of the first Bushwick Open Studios wishing that people other than Bushwickians were there.

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Hub Profile: Airplane Gallery

The next time you want to do a gallery crawl on a lazy Bushwick Sunday, start at Airplane Gallery.

Located at 70 Jefferson Street, Airplane was created by natives of the Bushwick arts scene. Airplane is 1000sq. ft. of underground turns, angles and nooks. A basement gallery whose light at the end of the tunnel is a doorway into a lush green back yard. This is integral to Airplane’s second love (after art): food. One of the principals, Lars Kremenr, is an avid cook and they integrate his passion with their aesthetic offerings.

Co-founder Kevin Curran was the owner of Laundromat Gallery, and worked with Lars and Liz Atzberger to open Airplane in the Fall of 2011.

Airplane’s offerings are eclectic and each show is defined by a set theme. This can range from dealing with the physical landscape of the gallery, to physical challenges like creating an installation in 36 hours.

In person, Lars and Kevin betray no pretension and are loathe to name drop or put emphasis on “CV Bullshit.” Their attitude is laid back, and they’re committed to the neighborhood’s growth. They’ve worked with AIB through the years in various incarnations, be it as artists themselves or now as gallery owners themselves.

Look for them to pop up in conversation, because they’re quietly working in Bushwick, all the time.

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Check us out

….on Bushwick Daily!

Thanks to blogger and arts writer Jacqueline Mabey!

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Hub Profile: Interstate Projects

Tom Weinrich’s Interstate Projects has been showing work by young artists since March 2011. I asked him about how the Bushwick art scene has evolved during his time in the neighborhood and what he thinks the future might hold.

Interstate Projects

* * *

Tom Weinrich: After grad school I was down the street on Grottan and Porter in a studio. That was 2008. It wasn’t that long ago—I wasn’t one of the early people or whatever—but it was still a bit different. Less things happening, less people around, more desolate. Even at that time I remember joking with my friend when the wine store opened, being very negative, that it was the beginning of the end.

But that hasn’t happened. Nothing has ended, it’s only grown. I’m generally excited about what’s happening out here, and I generally think it’s good.

BOS: How so?

TW: It just seems much more active. There’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of artists are out here, a lot of artists are doing projects out here. Most of the galleries are still artist-run. People still have a lot of energy and are doing interesting things.

I think that BOS is kind of the biggest example of that. For my part, I’m going to be having a solo show open by Justin Berry that weekend. I’m also going to be taking part in the Bushwick Basel art fair that Jules de Balincourt is doing at Starr Space, which I think will be fun.

So I’m excited. Last year was great, and this year I think will be even better. A, the train is running, and B, I think the kind of broader consciousness about Bushwick is much greater.

BOS: So just between this year and last you think it’s grown?

Totally. This year there was a Beat night and Brooklyn night during the Armory, and we had 500 or 600 people come through the gallery. If you multiply that by three days and more places doing things, I think it will be really big. I’m excited about it, and I think everyone else is too.

Tom Weinrich

BOS: Any other relevant issues that you think would be interesting to discuss?

TW: This year some people are talking more about the professionalization of the galleries out here. People are starting to be open longer, with more hours and more regular hours. Some galleries are doing art fairs—like, you know, for real art fairs—myself included. A lot of the galleries are trying to have a foot in both worlds: stay out here as an artist-run space, but still get into the broader art world. I think that’s an interesting model that might not really exist elsewhere in the city.

BOS: What is the relationship between here and Chelsea? Do the two worlds talk to one another a lot?

TW: Directly, not really. A lot of people that work out in Chelsea live out here. I think that was the whole reason for Luhring Augustine buying that building and moving. A lot of their employees live out here, and it just made sense.

People have been discussing why Bushwick is a big arts neighborhood. The L train goes directly to Chelsea, so it’s a direct link. It’s easy to get to from one of these two places to the other.

I’ve been noticing the traffic has been up a lot recently, mostly since the Times article came out. You’re still seeing a lot of the artists that live in the neighborhood. Their support is the best, the most important—people who live out here and come to every show. But you’re also starting to see more of the art-viewing public come out here.

BOS: Is that translating into more sales?

TW: For some people, yeah, it is. I don’t think most galleries focus solely on that, but then there are some that do. Even in this building there are some galleries that are commercial, that’s their business. It’s not a major point of what I’m doing, because I do this wood shop [next to the gallery]—my other business supports the gallery. I have sold work, but I don’t actively pursue it, and I probably do a lot of shows that are not saleable, because I show a lot of new media and video.

BOS: Do you see real estate prices going up?

TW: Oh, yeah, totally. I think the average in the neighborhood now is $2.50 a square foot. When I moved into this building it was $1.20, and that was only three years ago. So that’s a doubling of prices in three years. That will very drastically affect everything, because these types of artist-run spaces and projects—you can’t do them at those prices. I think you will start seeing the effects of that in six months, depending on how long people’s leases are and the building they’re in.

BOS: Does policy have any effect on this stuff? I’m assuming there’s no kind of protection on rent control?

TW: No, commercial spaces are completely unregulated. You can charge whatever you want for them and it doesn’t matter. So not many spaces are protected, other than the apartment galleries in the neighborhood, or if you own your own building. The community is on thin ice with that aspect of it, because you’re at the whim of the real estate market. The days of it being super cheap are dwindling.

I’m optimistic about all the projects happening out here, but you do have to be a little nervous about the effects of the real estate market and where that will push people. Because if all the artists move out, what happens?

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Artist Profiles: Ryan Coleman & Julie Vassili

Ryan P. Coleman and Julie K. Vassili are clearly two distinctive artists, with at least two things in common; they’re both painters and they share studio #320 at 1717 Troutman. Oh, and they’re super friendly!

Painting by Julie Vassili

They were separately drawn to Bushwick, like many of us, because of its affordability and artistic scene. Ryan was born in Connecticut, lived in a suburb, and moved to Bushwick ten years ago. He has moved around since then, but has pretty much stayed in Bushwick the entire time. Julie, on the other hand, is more of a nomad. She was born in Greece with an American mother, and moved back and forth between the States, Greece, London, …Narnia and every other magical place. She came to Bushwick a few years ago, left, and now she’s back again. She has had a taste of other parts of NYC, but Bushwick won her over …for now.

painting by Ryan Coleman

This is the first year Ryan and Julie will be showing their artwork at Bushwick Open Studios (Hey another thing they have in common!). Like everyone participating, we’re all very excited to meet new people. Julie, being a bit more reclusive, was surprised at a BOS meeting to see the large number of artists working in Bushwick. Ryan, who has been here for a decade, says BOS is a time to “meet the neighbors,”which translates to “I’m excited!”

Together, these two make a team, but they are almost opposites of each other, with opposite schedules, and totally different styles.

Ryan: “I like painting people, I just find it endlessly intriguing in all sorts of ways in a purely visual level.” He uses a palette of bold and poppy colors and thick lines to create a mood or psychological effect on the strangers in his paintings.

What inspires him? “A dark comedy that is lighthearted but with also very heavy and weighty emotion. The sad clown.” Oh, and old Popeye comics.

Julie has a sense of romanticism in her. Her current work focuses on piecing together the two different ways she has been working. After her undergraduate studies, she traveled all over the world taking in the imagery and landscapes from her visits. She then continued her studies at the New York Studio School, which heavily focuses on figurative art with models.

What influences her? “History of painting. Seeing how people work with this language. How you fall in love with a certain period.” She is currently in love with the Early Renaissance period.

“What I am really interested in now, is the transition from flat to form that happened through the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. That game is just so interesting especially when you’re just learning how to paint figuratively. You’re almost at that same place. You’re trying to find out how to paint form, but then if you can do that, you play with losing it as well.”

Both painters agree that Bushwick is great because of its diversity, affordability, space, and because there is a substantial community of young artistic seedlings here. As Ryan said, “There are a lot of little gardens in Bushwick.”

Don’t forget to stop by and meet this terrific duo at 1717 Troutman, studio #320 (it’s in the rear left). They literally can’t wait to meet you. Plus, they’re offering high-fives to every other person.

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