On the third day, I was useless.
Complete body and brain failure.
This is a state I have come to accept as normal. Annoying, frustrating, but normal.
I scrapped my original plans, made a lower energy plan, discarded that too and accepted that Manhattan just wasn’t on the cards for today. It would have to wait.
The flat is pretty perfect. Spacious, but small. The books are colour coded, the shelves (and boxes) laden with Marvel comics and books, there are superhero figures everywhere (even in the freezer!). It could not be more a home from home if it tried.
I walked south towards Prospect Park and found a lovely coffee shop. The sky was a brilliant blue and it was stupidly warm for December in NY. I sat outside and read. So much to learn, and a pretty much perfect place to do it.
I am SUCH a creature of habit.
Is this sort of behaviour on some sort of scale?
If I do something once, e.g. get up at 7:30am, eat breakfast on the sofa, watch (good) tv while doing so, wash up straight away, keep books on right-hand side of desk, keep bag in corner of room, eat a one-pot supper, watch a film about an artist, read a little LB in bed, followed by a novel (Paul Auster’s Moon Palace, in this instant), and it feels good, I want to do this everyday, and can get uncomfortable if I have to veer from this schedule.
Living in a flat alone, with no time restrictions (bar tickets for a gig (in two weeks time) and the closing time of the car hire place) for the best part of 3 weeks, suited this quirk of my personality perfectly.
Finding Vivian Maier. A brilliant documentary about a stunning photographer, with a massive body of work, who died before anybody discovered her work. Highly recommend watching it. Stunning, sometimes tear-jerkingly beautiful photographs, and a really intriguing story.
Went to bed only able to hope to God that I would wake with renewed energy.
Was harder to wake this morning. I guessed this was a good sign that jet lag was slowly abating, or maybe just a hangover of yesterday.
Late last night, after quite some research, I managed to find the address of Louise Bourgeois’ Brooklyn studio.
I had thought a lot about it yesterday.
Imagine my delight to find I am staying literally a stone’s throw away. What a win!
It was enough to get me out of bed, despite my brain fog.
Mission one – to go see the place where all her big work was made.
It was on getting the studio in Dean Street, Brooklyn, in 1980, that Louise started making her larger-scale works. The 62 works she named the Cells were all made there and the massive spider sculptures too. She had more space, she made bigger work.
My warning lights should maybe have started flashing when the google map had her studio down as in the middle of a green (park) area.
I walked the few hundred yards to 475 Dean Street. 472 (complete with Santa on the doorstep), 474, 476… it’s on the other side of the road…
I spent ages walking up and down the street, 445-661 a new block of apartments, a massive new building, an empty site and then the houses start again at 491. It’s just no longer there.
It was, in a previous life, a disused garment making factory. Maybe it had just reached the end of it’s life? The magnitude of the new buildings makes me wonder whether there was any choice for those that owned those buildings… (Further research found that the land is now part of the Barclay Centre, the home of the basketball team the Brooklyn Nets, so I’m guessing my suspicions are correct).
Gutted, obviously, I decided to continue to bask in the warm feelings of staying so close to where so much of the work I really love was made.
Just because the building doesn’t exist anymore, doesn’t change my proximity to the location.
After yesterday’s quiet day I had so many activities planned, where to start?
I set out for the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art) and a Rodin Exhibition and halfway there decided to abort and change plans completely. Oh the delights of being able to do EXACTLY what you want, when you want!
I headed for 347/9 W 20th. Louise Bourgeois’ Chelsea House. A gentle slow walk (the only type I’m capable of at the moment) and eventually I was there. It took me a while to be certain which was her house and which was owned by the Easton Foundation, who now look after all of her estate, artwork, house (left as it was when she died).
A slow google search (all mobile signals in NY were SO slow…) and I found pictures of the inside of her house that lined up with the blinds in the windows.
I was there.
She lived in this house from 1962 until her death in 2010, and spent the most part of her last 20 years in that house. Louise suffered from agoraphobia. By the mid 90’s she had ceased to leave home except to go to her Brooklyn Studio, by 2000 she had even stopped going there.
Inevitably I took out my phone to photograph the moment. I held it up, chose the best position. The screen went blank. The battery died. I think they call that Sod’s law? Or just incredibly poor planning?
[I am drinking tea charging my phone as I type… Off to try this again!]
This time I knocked…
In conversation with friends the idea of knocking seemed fine. Nothing ventured etc. But when reality kicks in it somehow seems different. Reminding myself that being out of my comfort zone is where I want to be, I pressed the doorbell of what I assumed was the Easton Foundation.
A woman came to the door and I explained I was here from the UK, studying LB, off to Dia:Beacon and MassMOCA… ‘Are you Rebecca?’ She asked. Ha!
Pester enough and at least you are remembered!
She told me that Louise had designed the front door and window bars, and I had already taken a photo through the front door (without being apprehended for such strange behaviour – there are no signs to alert you to this being different to any other house). Maggie (who I had had many email exchanges with) took my photo outside the house, told me of another exhibition in NY with a couple of LB’s works in.
But, in the end, New York City council (or whoever) have not granted permission for the public to visit the house, so no going in for me. Seriously pants!
Last stop Hauser and Wirth on W 22nd.
Now there’s one cool bar!
But I wasn’t here to sit in the bar [at least not then, but I am as I write this!]. I was here to see an exhibition called The Leaps of Aesop by Geta Brătescu. You may remember I went to her show in the Romanian Pavilion in Venice?
Geta is another female artist who took a long time to reach ‘fame’. Aged 91 now, her first solo exhibition in the UK was in 2015 and she was selected to represent Romania at the Venice Biennale in 2017.
I really like her work, I find the simplicity and her use of simple shapes and materials inspiring.
However this exhibition ultimately worked for me as a turning point in my understanding of what I really wanted from this trip, though to be honest I’d outstripped my day’s energy.
As I stood watching a video – of a woman, making what appeared to be a mud pie, then eating it while covered in a white face mask, red lipstick and foil-covered hair – my head to one side, I reached to stroke my hipster beard. Oh, hang on, I don’t have a beard, obviously. Fortunately, the very perfect model was attached to a man standing beside me. I reached out and stroked in that thoughtful way, while I continued to watch the mud pie eating. When the video finished I smiled and thanked him and walked on.
Clearly this didn’t happen. Imagine if it had…