Last weekend I hopped on the F train into Brooklyn to see what the artists there are up to these days. At least the ones that signed up for the annual Gowanus Open Studios. It was a treat to chat with the artists about their work and their set ups in the quaint old warehouses and factories. And to take a break from gigantic skyscrapers to see the offbeat mix of low-rise residential and industrial buildings. And get a real good look at the sky for a change.
Once upon a time Gowanus was a booming industrial and commercial district. Millions and millions of tons of cargo came through the Gowanus Canal each year. In the 1940s all the activity started tapering off, when trucks began toting goods over the newly constructed Gowanus Expressway. What remained was a waterway with a powerful stench that glowed in the dark. And eventually a Superfund site.
Yet in spite of it, or maybe even because of it, the area has a certain melancholic romance. The kind you might feel standing in front of an ancient ruin. But don't let the dilapidation fool you. There's plenty of life yet in the old neighborhood. Because here come the artsy types to enliven it with their energy and creative spirit. Followed in hot pursuit by the insatiable real estate developers. And then Starbucks. And then the inevitable Whole Foods, complete with a picturesque view of a scrap metal yard.
Although artists came in all stripes at the Gowanus Open Studios, the representational ones interested me the most. So I went armed with a list and hunted through the studios for them. My favorites were Ella Yang and Elizabeth O'Reilly, two artists inspired by the eccentric beauty of a faded canal right in their own back yard. Some day I'd love to go back to Gowanus and paint it with them.
My name is Julie Kessler and I'm a representational artist. Usually I paint in oils. But sometimes I play around with gouache, colored pencils and other media. I started this blog to share my work and thoughts about making art. I toss other things into the mix too, such as painters that I love, and art books and exhibits that inspire me. Your comments are welcome. I'd love to hear from you!