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


  1. I thought I saw Elisa in a picture at Buck House - say hello for us! She will remember Joanna.

  2. This whole post reads as a wonderful story in itself: from the cafe of the fruit tart back to the garment district and forward again to you in silk and lace (channeling Adelaide) at the Buck House. Your inclusion of Adelaide's self-portrait was marvelous because I wouldn't have caught that allusion.