Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bathed in Gold: Madison Square Park Goes Autumnal

Cup of the Day #92
Golden Network by Gwyneth Leech, November 2011
White-out pen and India ink on blue coffee cup

From my studio corner of the Flatiron Prow I have been watching for days as the trees in Madison Square Park turn color and spread a back drop of shimmering gold behind my suspended cups. 

View from the Prow Artspace
Flatiron Building, November 2011
Photo by Gwyneth leech

I draw the trees every few days and hang the cups so that inside and outside play against each other kaleidoscopically. Add in yellow traffic light boxes and the constant parade of yellow cabs until I feel enveloped in gold. 

 View from the Prow Artspace
Flatiron Building, November 2011
Photo by Gwyneth leech

Now the leaves are falling and I can see further into Madison Square. From my chair I can just make out one of Alison Saar's sculptures perched in the high fork of a London Plane tree, a glimpse that draws me into the park at the end of my drawing session.

Alison Saar Sculpture, Madison Square Park, 
through December 31st, 2011

There balances the black figure, head bowed, hair falling forward, covered with gun-metal butterflies. In an adjacent tree, an arborist on ropes is checking the canopy after a brutal, early snow storm damaged thousands of trees across the city. All seems safe and sound in the high branches and leaves drift down peacefully on Saar's totemic sculptures scattered through the park.

 Checking the tree canopy
Arborist in Madison Square Park
Photo by Gwyneth Leech 

Circling back towards the Flatiron Prow I bump into my friend Minouche Waring, a painter and glass designer, who lives on 6th Avenue at 26th Street. We go up to her loft to look at her latest glass pieces and drink Pu-erh tea with hot soy milk and Cardamom. My husband and I sublet her loft in 1993 while she traveled in India, our first experience living in New York City. Back then we recall, Madison Square was rat-infested and neglected. Concerted efforts by the Madison Square Conservancy have turned the park around and made it a brilliant showcase for public art presented by Mad. Sq. Art. It is my pleasure that Alison Saar's sculptures will be keeping me company until the end of the year, and that I will see more of them from my perch in the Prow Artspace as the trees go bare.

Alison Saar Sculpture, Madison Square Park, 
through December 31st, 2011
Photo by Gwyneth Leech

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Art, Cups, NYC

evagolightly, Statigram, 9.31 pm, 10/23/11

que_serasera, 14PC, 8.39 am, 9/24/1

I knew when I hung my cup art installation in the Flatiron Prow that a lot of people would see it, situated as it is on a major intersection at the very heart of New York City.  However, I hadn't really thought about how the current multi-tasking, hyper-connected, mobile public looks at art.

petra_mckenzie, Statigram, 11/11

Typical encounters with my cups go like this: Pedestrians are striding purposefully by, cuppa in hand, ear buds in, talking on their cell phones. They are brought to a halt in surprise by the hundreds of suspended cup drawings scintillating and turning in the windows of the Prow Artspace. They promptly get off their calls, take photos with their phones, apply some filters and load them to the internet right away.

Rula, Statigram, 10/11

A few keywords - #cups #flatiron #nyc- and the photos join a growing online archive on Statigram, Flickr, Tumblr, Tweetpics, Google+, Facebook and other photo blogs of the way each individual sees the installation.

They are consuming their art and making some of their own on the fly!

Selen, 14PC, 10/11

In an essay called Lessons from Social Media, Nick Martin writes:

"Here’s a description of the process Leech goes through with each cup and why:
“Leech saves cups from her drinks — and occasionally from other artists she meets for tea or coffee — washes, dries them and records on the bottom the date, place, occasion, and drink it held, thus documenting the social moment.”

Catch that last part? Each cup documents a “social moment”. Every single cup suspended so delicately in midair symbolizes a personal interaction, an exchange of stories or ideas, a connection with another human being. All of these social moments are then made into art, and displayed to hundreds of onlookers sparking new social moments, ideas, stories, and connections."

Danielle_B, Facebook, 11/7/1

It is exactly as he says! And just as each cup is different, each viewer's photos are unique, sparking their own text-based responses and conversations.

"I love how simple yet magnificent and intricate this is all at once!"
 chrysanthacakes, Statigram, 11.49 am, 10/21/11
Where will it all end up? Where will all this connectedness take us? I have no idea. I am excited by the possibilities. 

"Contemplating Modern Art in New York City",
chacoan, Statigram, 2.44 pm, 11/1/2011

As I watch it all unfold, there are many cups of tea and coffee to drink and many more drawings to do between now and the beginning of 2012.

See you at the Flatiron. And don't forget to bring your camera - or at the very least, your cellphone.
cattie, 12.37 am, 10/31/11

rmar, Statigram, 5.58 pm, 11/4/2011
Matthew Huie, Flickr, 11/7/11

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Naked Studio

See the lengths to which we artists will go to make our art?

Ready to work in the Flatiron, Studio in the Prow
Photo courtesy of Cecilia De Boucort 

I am an active procrastinator. When my apartment is as neat as a pin, the cutlery drawers sorted, the filing cabinet in perfect order, that is usually when I have a pressing art deadline. When my painting studio was in my home, I became adept at Final Cut Pro video editing, Photoshop, Excel spreadsheets, and writing.

Eventually, I started renting a painting studio in the Garment District in Manhattan with no internet access and no computer on site. My children are in school all day, I had the time to paint seriously and so I did, regularly and productively.

But I grew lonely.

Cup of the Day #91
Twining Vines by Gwyneth Leech
Colored India ink pen on upcycled white paper coffee cup

It seemed like a few committees would balance things out. But my active procrastinator took over and before I knew it two schools, various art groups and a lengthy turn on the co-op board of my building were keeping me from my brushes and glued to my computer again.
Then came the cups. Sitting still and listening at meetings, my hands needed to move constantly and without really being aware of it, my paper coffee cups were covered with drawings. These drawing intrigued me and I followed the thread. The cup form is the same each time, so I gave myself complete permission to draw anything I liked. This way, with pens at the ready, and an inexhaustible supply of something to draw on, I have managed to stay in a highly generative place.

 Early morning, Flatiron
The Naked Studio before the artist arrives
September, 2011 

Now all that was needed was a way to put art-making firmly center stage, the inviolable fulcrum of my day. My current exhibition at the Flatiron Building, Hypergraphia: Studio in the Prow is the perfect answer. Here I am, in a naked, glass-walled studio right in the center of the city, in the middle of my best and most productive time of day and days of the week. Everyone passing by is making me keep my commitment to my art-form, and the flow of visitors who come inside to talk livens the solo work of making my art. 

Visitors to the Prow Artspace from 
Saint John's University, NY and from
England, Scotland and California

Several artist friends have said they couldn't do this, they couldn't draw in public, couldn't commit to all these weeks. But it doesn't feel like a burden to me. The prow is quiet, the faces - especially those of the children - full of delight. What a privileged position to be in, to see how viewers react to our artwork!

And when January comes and I have to leave the Prow Studio?  I am going to remember the lessons I have learned about pacing myself, about ring-fencing time for work, about being unplugged, about making art with others.

And my cutlery drawer is going to be very, very neat once again.