Monday, June 27, 2011

The Bean and the Méchanique Fantastique

Cup of the Day #85 
 by Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on white  printed cup

I was down in the East Village with Elisa Jimenez on a wander. Our destination was a very enjoyable show of women abstract expressionists at Dorian Gray Gallery on East 9th, including Joan Mitchell prints, Judy Pfaff drawings and some lovely paintings by my studio-mate Cecile Brunswick
After the gallery, Elisa and I were in The Bean at 49 1/2  1st Avenue enjoying a sumptuous and decadent fruit tart with coffee to celebrate mid-summer, recent projects and the beginning of new things. 
Fruit tarts at The Bean Café

Elisa had been at Buck House for the day of my hit and run Hyeprgraphia installation and was making some observations about the differences from the six week Garment District showing back in the Spring. "On 38th Street it was about working," she remarked, "the artist inconspicuously tucked away at the back of the window, dressed in gray, laboring in the cold, filling the window with more and more drawings every day. Very Garment District sweatshop."

Hypergrphia, June 9th, 2011
Drawing in the window at Buck House, view from the street

"Buck House felt entirely different, with you dressed in silk and lace in the very middle of the installation, looking like a cup drawing or one of the fine objet d'art in the shop. Your striped skirt matched the wall paper, even the same blue. Made me think Méchanique Fantastique or the nightingale in a gilded cage."

Hypergrphia, June 9th, 2011
Drawing in the window at Buck House, view from inside 

I love the way Elisa saw it. The skirt was actually a delightful coincidence. Who knew that this purchase made from Anthropologie months ago would match so well?  For my part, I was channeling the 1785 self portrait by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (French, 1749–1803) which hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I often pay a dollar and pop to see it.

Oil on canvas, 1785
Metropolitain Museum, New York City

There she is, painting at her easel in full court attire: voluminous gray silk dress, lace, fantastic hat,  students leaning over her shoulder. My finery in the window of Buck House bears no resemblance to the way I make art in the privacy of my studio, from whence I always emerge covered in paint and in complete disarray. But it was fascinating to paint that way for a day.

As for Elisa, mistress of the magical and the fantastique, I can't wait to see what she does next!

Marionette Dance, by Elisa Jimenez
Video by Gwyneth Leech

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Cups at the Buck House

Cup of the Day #84
Buck House cup by Gwyneth Leech
India ink on white paper cup,  June 9th 2011

Thursday, June 9th. It was a sweltering day. By 8:30 AM sweat ran down my back as I stood on 8th Avenue at 39th street laden with bags and hailing a cab. I tried to cool off with an ice coffee on the trip uptown and across Central Park to Madison Avenue, where we crawled in traffic to 93rd and the front door of Buck House.

I have got this down to an art now. The current version of the cup exhibition travels in a couple of Ikea bags. With quite a number of hands on deck to untangle, arrange, hang and rearrange, it was a two hour proposition to install. Buck House assistant Jean Guy, a few inches taller than I am, made short work of hammering tacks into the ceiling and then we unfurled the cups strings.

The morning light was gorgeous and added a new dimension of vivid shadows on the floor of the window space, giving me ideas for new artwork.


By lunch time the installation was almost set, a striking effect against the white wrought iron doors of Buck House. But there was one thing left to make it perfect: Yes, that is Cheryl sweeping the sidewalk! She can't help herself - she loves to clean.

Buck House laid on a beautiful coffee party in their rear garden featuring Stumptown's finest brew, or some champagne if preferred. And Miguel came up with a lethally innocent cocktail - ice coffee, Bailey's, vodka and a hint of mint. Not to be trifled with. Only regular ice coffee for me, please. I have to draw!

Deborah Buck, owner of Buck house, steps out front to cast a discerning eye over the finished window.

 Finally, in the window and hard at work drawing. 
I have to say, it was nice to be amongst the cups again.

Inside meets outside - summer dresses strolled in from Madison Avenue.  Just a little different from West 38th Street in March where everyone was still bundled up in their winter coats! There, the effect of the window was a surprising contrast of color against the hard gray street. Here, there was a pleasing continuity from the street, through the ornamented cups to the inside of the treasure-filled shop.

The view from the inside. And on this day the window space was a sauna, not a refrigerator.

An impromptu drawing workshop sprang up. "Excuse me Miss, can I draw on that empty cup?" "Can I use that pen?" Good thing I had extra everything, though I wouldn't give up my one bright blue pen. "But I need it!" exclaimed a child. "Not as much as I do", replied my selfish artist.

This time, we hung the cups without lids and let them fill with light. 

And then it was over. A last glimpse inside the Buck House after the doors closed and everyone prepared to go home.

But wait, here come friends delayed by a sudden evening thunderstorm. What is it about the cup installation and the rain? (It rained almost every day while the show was up on 38th Street.) So we lingered outside in the suddenly cool air, under umbrellas once again. I returned the next morning to take the cups down; A cup art hit and run.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lunch Break at Lazzara's

 Cup of the Day #82: Man with coffee cup
 India ink on white paper cup by Gwyneth Leech

I just came across these notes from a day in my life during the window exhibition in March. It was a blur!

PTA meeting
IEP meeting
Run to window exhibition - drawing
Home to process photos
Pick up groceries on the way
Wrangle Teen to homework and piano lesson
Rush to collect younger daughter from school
An hour playing freeze tag in the playground
Home to make dinner
Homework, bath time, bed for kids
Conversation with David
Internet and e-mail
Bed for mom

Magic hour: 1-2 PM lunch at Lazzara's on 38th Street.
Up a tall stoop stair from the street to the parlor floor.
Pressed tin ceiling, garment district workers on their lunch hour.
Paper table cloths over linen.
The wait staff run with big salads and thin crust pizzas up and down the crowded room.
Speakeasy hideaway - yes.
Espresso in a china cup -Yes!
Midtown is changing. Pleased to find Lazzara's still there.

 View of 38th Street from 10th Avenue, looking East

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time for A Refill: the Cups Go to Buck House

"Are you OK? wrote a friend this week. "Are your blogging days over? Of course there's always the possibility that they locked the storefront, turned off the lights and didn't realize you had fallen asleep under a comforting pile of pristine cups-in-waiting."

Locked away with my drawing materials! A lovely thought. But no, I have just been buried beneath all those domestic and mundane things long neglected for the sake of art. And in truth, by the end of six weeks in the window I felt as empty as a used paper coffee cup.

Raining cups in the Hypergraphia window
March, 2011

In early April, I packed up cup drawings for collectors, exhibitions and the Cheryl McGinnis Gallery and felt bereft to see the installation dispersed. After that, I continued to pack: for the Trans Art Conference in Boston, to clear space so I could repaint my apartment and for trips to visit family.

Then a few weeks ago, I found myself on the Upper East side drinking Arnold Palmer's (half lemonade, half ice tea) with Cheryl McGinnis and Deborah Buck at Buck House on Madison Avenue at 94th Street, to plan a second Hypergraphia Cup Drawing Window Installation.

This time it will be a one-day-only event. On June 9th I will be drawing in the window and from 3 - 7 PM they will be serving coffees, cocktails and chocolates. So if you missed it on 38th Street, here is a chance to experience Hypergraphia for yourself. Or if you loved it, please bring or send friends. Summer is here and I am refilled with fresh ideas and the energy to tackle that pile of pristine cups-in-waiting!
See you at Buck House.