Thursday, December 6, 2012

How to Make Friends: Jay-Z Meets Ellen Grossman on the MTA

 Cup(s) of the Day #115 
by Gwyneth Leech, 2012
India Ink on upcycled take-out coffee cups
In the crush of fame and adulation which hems in the rapper Jay-Z at every turn in his new video "Where I'm From", there is an unexpected oasis moment. Traveling by subway - along with a crowd of screaming fans, roadies, bodyguards, and a film crew - to the Barclays Center for the last of eight shows, he sits down next to Ellen Grossman, a friendly New Yorker who has no idea who he is.
"Are you famous?" she asks mildly, with an encouraging smile.
"Not very famous, you don't know me," he replies without a hint of irony.

"Where I'm From" Jay-Z Barclays Center Documentary
 The subway scene starts around minute 18:40.

The dialogue could just as easily have gone the other way!
Ellen Grossman is a dedicated and accomplished visual artist with some fame of her own, who deserves to be more widely known. I admit I am biased, since Ellen is a friend. However, I have the greatest respect and admiration for her artwork. Her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is an Alladin's cave of wall reliefs, sculpture and maquettes for public artworks made from undulating layers of wire and chain link mesh. Her flat files are full of exquisite, method-based line drawings which chart long passages of time. Visit her website, and read more about her process on the blog Recession Art.

Ellen commends Jay-Z for taking the subway to his gig; "I'm proud of you," she says.
Then exchanging names, they shake hands. When she finally realizes who she is sitting next to, her face beams with unaffected delight.

Gawker describes her as an adorable old lady. Adorable, yes. Old - not at all. Ellen is full of life and working in her prime. She is getting a tidal wave of positive attention right now for her cheerful and unassuming conversation with the mystery man of music. Here's hoping that Jay-Z gets to know her better by collecting her art, and by helping her get those public sculptures realized!

This tale just goes to prove my personal theory: in New York City, to have an adventure, you just need to leave the house!

4-1 Bulge, by Ellen Grossman, 28”x 40”, Aluminum gel pen ink on black paper, 2005

4-2 Over Roll (detail), by Ellen Grossman, 28” x 40”, Aluminum gel pen ink on black paper, 2009

Several of Ellen's gorgeous drawings are currently on view in Chelsea, at Denise Bibro Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 4W, as part of "Artists from the Boros" which runs through January 5th, 2013.

The full video of Jay Z's "Where I'm From" is available online here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Take a Cab in New York City

A front of dry, unseasonably warm weather has settled over the City. I ate my lunch in Dewitt Clinton Park, on a sunny bench next to the World War I monument. The youthful soldier stands eternally poised and pensive, as if about to exit the park onto 53rd and 11th. Today I notice a bouquet of flowers tucked into the crook of his arm.

 Cup of the Day #114
"Indian Summer Taxis" view 1
 By Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on Upcycled Paper Coffee Cup

Despite Hurricane Sandy and November snow, golden leaves still cling to the trees. My coat is off. Indian Summer!
Nearby, some young dancers from the Alvin Ailey School are taking photos of themselves with an iPad as they pretend to scale the trunks.

Outside the park, yellow taxis stream by on 11th Avenue. The NYC fleet has been in the news a lot lately: new car design, rising fares (twice in quick succession), changes to the livery and now it has been decided to do away with the off-duty designation for roof lights.

We are bus and train people generally in my family, but our weekly routine does entail two taxi trips at least. The first is across town from Hell's Kitchen to our Sunday morning choral job at Saint Bart's on 50th and Park (always running too late to walk). The second journey happens every Tuesday afternoon - a rapid transition from after-school to dance class, for our nine year old daughter Grace. Invariably, the pickup falls just at snack time and we leave the school juggling coats, book bag, a piece of fruit, a container of milk and a slice of pizza on a plate. As we stand on 8th Avenue, both of us with an arm out and taxis whizzing past, I am fully aware that we are NOT an attractive proposition.

 Cup of the Day #114
"Indian Summer Taxis" view 2
 By Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on Upcycled Paper Coffee Cup

Every week, for some reason, it is the off-duty taxis that finally stop and ask where we want to go. I don't hope to understand the arcane methods of the off-duty taxi driver, but we are requesting a straight shot, 20 blocks uptown. No driver has refused us yet, despite the food.

Grace, who has Down Syndrome, loves taxis above all modes of transport. She has been confidently hailing cabs since she was three years old, and is now a connoisseur of taxi driver personality. If they can understand her directions to drop us at 67th and Broadway, engage in conversation en route, and hand her the receipt, not only does she tip generously, but she awards her highest compliment when we arrive. She leans into the front seat and announces, "I love you!" Then turning to me as we get out, she confides in a loud voice, "I am going to marry him!"

To my surprise, many a hard-boiled taxi driver calls out the window as he drives off, "I love you too!"

 Cup of the Day #114"
Indian Summer Taxis" view 3
By Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on Upcycled Paper Coffee Cup

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dry and Hopeful in Red Hook

Cup of the Day #113
"High Clouds" by Gwyneth Leech
India and white ink on upcycled paper cup

It was much easier than I expected - an A train from Manhattan to Jay Street in Brooklyn, followed by a wending B61 bus that landed us directly outside the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook on a grey afternoon. It was three weeks after Hurricane Sandy and I had been surprised and pleased to hear that Joan Grubin and Tamiko Kawata where giving gallery talks that day. Was it possible that the Red Hook neighborhood, site of such dramatic flooding and concentrated vounteer relief efforts, was already getting back to normal? "NEWS UPDATE", exclaimed the gallery website, "Kentler survived Sandy!"

Joan Grubin"Paper Optics"
 back gallery space

"Beyond Line, Beyond Surfaces"
front gallery space

Red Hook is a low-lying neighborhood, surrounded by water on three sides. As our bus made its way down a now dry Van Brunt Street (the main thoroughfare where water had rushed in like a "mini Tsunami" on October 29th) there were still some signs of the aftermath: piles of black refuse bags, a few sandbagged doorways, people in face masks working in basements and gutting ground floor spaces. But there was plenty of everyday activity along the sidewalks, in the playground, and in the many open shops, restaurants and coffee bars. 

Flooded Red Hook, October 29, 2012
Photos from Web

A good crowd gathered in the gallery. Both artists had stories to tell of disrupted preparations and delays - trying to get artwork to the gallery in wind and rain, the fear of damage as water rose in the basement, but never flooded the gallery. Tamiko made it to the gallery after the storm to install, and became stranded on a day when no busses or trains were running and taxis had no gas. She hitch-hiked home to Manhattan! 

The two artists worked flat-out in the gallery making site specific installations in their separate spaces as cleanup crews labored in the neighborhood. Joan said she felt like rushing out and grabbing a shovel to help clear basements. Yet, she stayed at her task, and the result is a glorious and life-affirming array of experiments in perception and optical effects. The exhibition opened on schedule, and the artwork lifted the spirits of community members who gathered in the gallery with FEMA in the days after the storm.

FEMA Meeting at the Kentler.

"Progression" by Joan Grubin
 acrylic on paper flaps,  64" x 53" x 2", 2011 

Asked if the hurricane had effected her work, Joan replied that it was a matter of perception and context. Preplanned pieces looked ever more right in the aftermath. "Progression", a large installation that dominates the end wall of the gallery, began to look like the floodwaters themselves, racing up the streets. 

The exhibition runs through December 16th. "Tell people to come," said Florence Neal, the director of the Kentler. "The gallery is open. Local businesses are open. After what we we went through we don't want the double impact of first the hurricane, and then of people staying away."

The gallery is located at  353 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York and is open  Thursday - Sunday, 12 - 5pm. It can be reached by bus, car, free IKEA ferrry from Manhattan, and also kayak and canoe! For a map and contact information click here.

As an added incentive, right next door is the delightfully and nautically named Hope and Anchor, a corner cafe and bar. It was abuzz with customers on this dark afternoon and the food was excellent.
While across the street at Dry Dock, the vintners, bottles of fine wine with water-damaged labels were selling for half price. Hurry out. There might be some left.

Photo: NY_Eater

Relief efforts are ongoing in Red Hook, as in other New York and New Jersey neighborhoods following Hurricane Sandy. For ways to help go to and

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chelsea Art Galleries on the Rebound + Emergency Resources for Artists

Cup of the Day #112
"The Deluge 2012", by Gwyneth Leech
India Ink on upcycled paper cup

"We are open!" exclaimed an art dealer just two weeks after hurricane Sandy. "Despite all the sad stories, many galleries in Chelsea are open for business. And if you have been eyeing a piece of art, even if the price is only $100, now is the time to make that purchase!"

Such a turn-around hardly seemed possible on November 1st, three days after the storm. I had walked twenty blocks down to the power-less and waterlogged gallery district. It was shocking to see high water marks four and five feet up the sides of gallery walls a block or more from the Hudson river. Teams of people were already at work on the cleanup, the scene dominated by disaster mediation workers in hazmat suits, by the sound of gas generators and pumps. On every street between 27th and 18th mountains of packaging, ruined crates and trash bags lined the sidewalks and filled dumpsters. Salvaged art was being packed into trucks and sent to restorers. The galleries were dank and darkened shells, unrecognizable from their usual character as brightly lit and rarefied temples of culture.

Four foot highwater line outside Sonnabend Gallery on 22nd Street.

Servpro at work on 26th Street, November 1st.

Outside Jack Shainman Gallery on West 20th Street, where the basement level flooded 

Remedial work advancing in a 22nd Street gallery, November 1st. 

Only a few days later, I received an e-mail saying that numerous galleries were opening exhibitions on Thursday the 8th of November. Power had been restored to most of the city below 34th Street and a come-back in Chelsea was already under way! I went but it was a rather somber evening. The usual crowds of opening-goers were absent. Several major gallery buildings were still without power from damage to services at basement level. Most street level spaces were still closed and restoration work was visibly underway into the night. 

However, upstairs spaces, of which there are many, were abuzz and some street level galleries, by fluke of raised door steps or the absence of basements had escaped unscathed and were open to the public.

Gallery restoration on 25th Street, November 8th

 James Cohan Gallery, West 26th Street, Chelsea, Trenton Doyle Hancock opening November 8th

 Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, West 24th Street
Peter Campus, "Now and Then" opening, November 8th

It was especially heartening to see Printed Matter, purveyor of "15,000 artists books", open again after having so much of their material and archives damaged when the basement flooded as far from the river as 10th Avenue. Overall, the bright lights and hardy art viewers were a comfort and predicator that the Chelsea art scene is resilient and will soon be back up to speed.

Printed Matter on 10th Avenue at 22nd Street open for business on November 8th

Salvage work outside Printed Matter on November 1st.

Much further from view are the many stricken art neighborhoods around the city, especially in low-lying parts of Hoboken, Jersey City, Red Hook, Greenpoint and Gowanus where artists' studios and storage spaces as well as small alternative galleries were flooded. Some artists lost decades of work and were less likely than art galleries to have adequate insurance, if any. Numerous arts organizations and foundations have stepped up to the plate and are offering emergency support and services. Below is a list compiled by the Lower Manhattan Cultural council.

Cleanup outside Bortolami Gallery on West 20th Street, November 1st.

Emergency Resources for Artists
Complied by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Artists, please note: if any of your work or live/work space has been
damaged, take pictures and keep receipts of whatever you spend during this

*Self-employed people are eligible for 'disaster unemployment insurance'* in
areas where a federal declaration of disaster has been declared.
explains more:

*LMCC's Emergency Grants List:*

*NYFA's Emergency Grants List:*

*Joan Mitchell Foundation:* sent out this message after the Hurricane:
"If you are - or know of - a visual artist who has been affected by the
hurricane please contact us. The Foundation has funding allocated
specifically for emergency assistance to painters and sculptors affected by
natural disasters... We know that communication for many is very limited
now, but our staff can be reached by email at:

*Small Business Disaster Relief Loans:*
Federal: Small Business Administration

City: Department of Small Business Services has set up a Sandy recovery

For more information about the loans, call 311 and ask for NYC Business

*Links to salvage / conservation / recovery information:*
Conservation OnLine:
Studio Protector:

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training:
Heritage Preservation:
Arts Ready:
MoMA consortium on conserving works released this
emergency handling of artwork damaged by flooding.

*Christie's*: Christie's is arranging space for Downtown artists to use
their laptops and charge their phones, and may be able to assist galleries
with storage space for their art. Those interested, please call (212)

*New York City Economic Development Corporation*: For any business
temporarily displaced, NYCEDC may have short-term "swing" office or storage
space: information at

*New York City Arts Coalition offers helpful information about FEMA*:
Federal disaster resources will be dependent on your (or your arts
group/business) being registered at FEMA. Go to

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Slow Motion Sandy and a Flood of Relief

Cup of the Day #111
"The calm before the Storm"
Water color on upcycled paper coffee cup 
by Gwyneth Leech

Hurricane Sandy came grinding ashore last week as if in slow motion. New York City was ready early -  the public transportation system, the bridges and tunnels were closed nearly a day in advance. Fleets of taxis were grounded. Everyone went home. Inconvenienced, we New Yorkers complained and fussed and then went to bed on Sunday night waiting for the onslaught but not quite believing the forecasts.

The weather map was terrifying, but in Midtown Manhattan on that hurricane Monday it didn't actually seem like much. Gusts of wind and rain at street level, not dramatic. There was a stange high pitched whine of wind high above, but that wouldn't keep us holed up indoors. In fact, many of us went repeatedly down to the Hudson River to watch the water level rise, and to feel the warm driving rain in our faces. It seemed nothing like the wind and snow lashing the city as I sit writing on this afternoon ten days later.

High water on the West side highway
8:30 pm Monday, October 29th
AP Photo/ Dylan Patrick

  The same section of the West side Highway on Tuesday October 30th at 11 am.
The flooding tide receded quickly. Up here in Midtown, it was as if it never happened - almost.

Around 8pm on Monday, October 29th, the tide reached its peak and the flood waters swept in at last, reaching deep into the five boroughs. Half the city plunged into darkness. Within hours the freak tide had receded. A seemingly underwhelming storm and its unprecedented tidal surge left behind a wrack and ruin of ordinary life: a pulverized coast, lost lives, houses and infrastructure destroyed, trees uprooted, widespread power outages and a city brought to a halt by a flooded and power-less public transportation system.

Broken crane at the 74th floor.
November 1st, 2012

In Midtown Manhattan we were spared the multi-day power outages but found ourselves in limbo: offices downtown where many of us work shut for an indefinite time, schools stayed closed day after day, the lack of public transportation kept us close to home. A crane dangled menacingly high above 57th Street and with that street closed, traffic mayhem spread as far as the eye could see.

 Broadway and 57th Street closed for days due to the crane accident.
Traffic chaos around Columbus circle and on 8th Avenue, November 1st, 2012

Somehow, we got through that long week with remarkable optimism, patience and gratitude.
Hallowe'en was observed just two days after the storm. On this Wednesday, ten days later, much has returned to a semblance of normal - most transportation running, most schools open and children back, most people returning to work. Yesterday we succeeded in voting along with the rest of the country.

Trick-or-treat in the local deli,
Hell's Kitchen, October 31, 2012

There was  a second flood unleashed by Hurricane Sandy: of images and articles, news reports and social media commentary. This second inundation continues to play out, giving us detailed views of the hardest hit communities: the length of the Jersey shore, Staten Island and the Rockaways, Long Beach and other areas which front the coast, lower Manhattan, low-lying sections of Brooklyn and New Jersey along the New York Harbor. Artist communities in Red Hook and Greenpoint as well as the Chelsea gallery district were all ravaged by the waters. The result has been a massive outpouring of public and private relief, fund-raising, donation drives and volunteer efforts of all kinds across the region. Aid will be needed for a long time to come, especially for tens of thousands who cannot return home or have no homes or jobs to return to following fire and flood. Our hearts go out to them, especially as today's snow-laden nor'easter pummels the coast all over again!

Relief efforts are ongoing. Go to for details of ways to take part.
For information about New Jersey go to

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Ecuador in the Studio

Cups (s) of the Day #110
"Flooded Forest, Amazonas", August 2012
from the Ecuador cup series, by Gwyneth Leech
India ink on upcycled paper coffee cups

I am previewing the Ecuador cup installation in my studio this weekend
as part of the Annual Fashion District Arts Festival in New York City.

It was wonderful to have such a great turnout for our opening night on Thursday.
Thank you Catherine Ventura (right) for coming by!

My studio partner, Cecile Brunswick (right), with collectors.

Our studio will be open to the public again for more art and conversation
on Saturday, October 20th, from 2:30-6PM.

315 West 39th Street (between 8th and 9th Ave.) in New York City, Studio #1306.

We look forward to seeing you there!

For information on the other artists in the festival, and a full calendar of events click here .

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Open Studio October 18th and 20th

After a summer of travelling in South America, the Full Brew is back in New York City and percolating new stories and ideas. Regular posts will begin again shortly.

In the meantime, join me on October 18th and 20th when I open my studio doors to the public as part of the Fashion District Annual Arts Festival. All are welcome!

Cup(s) of the Day #109
"Cityscape Cups", 2012 (Views form the studio)
by Gwyneth Leech
India ink on upcycled paper coffee cups

 OPEN STUDIO:  Thursday 10/18, 6-10 PM and Saturday 10/20, 1-6 PM

315 West 39th Street (between 8th and 9th Ave.) in New York City, Studio #1306.

On view will be  an installation of my latest cup drawings from recent travels in Ecuador, as well as new paintings in progress.

Click here for the full open studio schedule.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Rainforest Dreams: the Full Brew Goes to Ecuador

As of June 30th, the Full Brew will be in Ecuador for six weeks to study Spanish, travel and paint.
Venturing offline, with no knowledge of the internet landscape in the Andes and the Amazon,
will there be posts from the Equator? We shall see.
If not, blogging will resume in the Fall with new photos, stories and cups!!

Until then, the Full Brew wishes everyone a summer full of adventure and new experiences.

Cup of the Day #108
"Rain Forest Dream" by Gwyneth Leech
Colored India ink on used paper coffee cup

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Art and Trash Deluxe at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Art

Cup(s) of the Day #107
"Detail of the Cup Drawings #1 - #655" by Gwyneth Leech
in Luxuriant Refuse at the PFMFA
Installation by Adela Andea in the background

The Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts, also known as the Pearl, is a lovely small museum in Spring, a suburb of Houston, Texas. Craving more culture in their own neighborhood, the denizens of Spring stepped up to the plate and funded this non-collecting art institution which opened its doors in 2008. It was a pleasure to be down visiting from New York City for the opening of Luxuriant Refuse, an exhibition of nine artists who make extravagant art with trash, and to lead several community events related to my own installation of 655 drawings on used paper coffee cups.

Gwyneth Leech, the Cup Drawings #1 - #655
in Luxuriant Refuse 
at the PFMFA, Spring Texas

Luxuriant Refuse 
at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Art, Spring Texas

People are enthusiastic about art in this 'hood and they love their museum, which is free. Hundreds of kids and their parents came by for a drop-in art afternoon while I was there and dozens of volunteer docents were kept on their toes explaining the upcycling artwork to these discerning viewers.

River Euphrates by Johnston Foster
Mixed media including used traffic cones and duct tape

The evening reception was attended by an older crowd: museum members and trustees, art patrons, collectors, artists and gallerists from downtown Houston, and a family of my cousins who live in the area - well, to be more precise, who live at the end of a lengthy express-way drive to the Heights neighborhood of Houston, some 50 minutes away.

Luxuriant Refuse 
at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Art, Spring Texas
The Collector by Johnston Foster, 2011
Mixed media including found furniture and plastic lawnchairs

A couple of things of note happened around the time of the opening reception. In the first instance, arriving at the museum an hour before the event, I found my cousin Geoff already there. I suggested an ice coffee at a nearby coffee bar. I also suggested we walk. He hesitated, shrugged, and out we stepped from the temperature and humidity-controlled interior of the museum into the blast furnace of a June afternoon.

Consonance by Paul Villinski, 1993-2006
Gold Leaf on found work gloves
By the time we reached Rao's Bakery Coffee Cafe in the strip mall two blocks away we were bathed in sweat and the ice coffee was certainly needed to revive us. Afterwards, we walked very, very slowly back to the museum, conserving our energy.

A bit later, we stood outside once again, wearing filter glasses and studying the face of the sun with binoculars. Can you see it? Absolutely - that dot is clearly Venus crossing the face of the sun!!
So that would be two things in one day that one should never do - look directly at the sun and walk outside in Spring, Texas in the summer!

Ivanhoe by Alison Foshee, 2012
Labels on canvas

As for the exhibition, Luxuriant Refuse itself, I was delighted to see my cup installation alongside the work of these fellow artists who so imaginatively use "detritus as a medium, exploring ideas about consumption, creativity, and transformation". Each one takes excess to excess, pushing the creative boundaries of the used, castoff and unwanted. Accumulation is the underlying theme, and the mind is boggled by the sheer number of old computer keyboard keys in a work by Sarah Frost, or food labels in what at first seems to be a painting by Alison Foshee.

Sign Off by Sarah Frost
and Tire by Betsabée Romero

Sign Off by Sarah Frost, 2011
Discarded computer keyboard keys

Tire by Betsabée Romero, 2007
Carved rubber truck tire

Bioluminescence, a wall mounted installation by Adela Andea is made from thousands of back-lit diced pool noodles - those brightly colored Styrofoam swimming aids found at any pool. It was a show stealer and I was very pleased to meet the artist herself at the opening reception. None of the other artists were present, but since several, including Aurora Robson, Johnston Foster, Sarah Frost and Paul Villinski either live or exhibit in New York City, I have hopes of meeting them and seeing more of their work up North.

Detail of Bioluminescence, by Adela Andea, 2012
Pool noodles and cold cathode
flourescent lights mounted on wire mesh

Belch (aka Tarball) by Aurora Robson, 2009
Discarded PET bottles, tinted polycrylic, 
rivets, steel armature, mica powder

Luxuriant Refuse is on now through August 5th at the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts, 6815 Cyrpesswood Drive in Spring Texas.
Artists include Adela Andea, Johnston Foster, Alison Foshee, Sarah Frost, Gwyneth Leech, Shawne Major, Aurora Robson, Betsabée Romero, and Paul Villinski.
The show was curated by Melissa Grobmyer of MKG Art Management.
for more exhibition information click here

Jesus Bugs by Shawne Major, 2006
Mixed media including fishing net,
 frisbees, plastic toys and braid tassel trim

Gwyneth Leech: the Cup Drawings
#1 -  #655, 2008-2012
Mixed media on used paper coffee cups 
Photo by Hip Mama Jen

And thank you Hip Mama Jen, for this review of my contribution to the exhibit:

"Finally I can't possibly discuss the show without mentioning Gwyneth Leech's project called simply The Cup Drawings. Leech has drawn on coffee cups since 2008. On each she also records the date, occasion and location of consumption. The cups are strung in multiples on invisible string and hang in strands that gently sway as viewers walk by. The cups appear to be raining from the sky and the variety of images and patterns are stunning not only for their appearance but for the thought that they instill which is this is the amount of waste produced from one consumer."

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