Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cup of the Day #100 and Last Call in the Flatiron Prow

Cup of the Day #100
Artist in her Cups
Photo by Marianne Barcellona 

On Saturday, February 18th at 4 pm, after five months, I called “last cups", bade everyone finish their drawings at home and shooed them out the door. It had been a packed house all day. In fact, since David Dunlap’s wonderful article came out in the New York Times, so beautifully describing the cup project and this tranquil and magical art space in the heart of the city, people have been coming in droves to experience it for themselves. One lady said,
 “As soon as I read the article I pulled my pants on and ran down here!" I am glad she took the time to put on her pants. Really.

Letting us know it was in the newspaper

Others brought boxes of tea and cookies. A complete stranger came up and pressed the article against the window to show us we were in the Times and then hurried off. A group of  students from the High School of Art and Design came in and we invited them to draw. There were fifteen of them and you could have heard a pin drop as they became immersed in their cup drawings.

A teacher from the International Center brought a group of recent immigrants, all learning English. She had taught to the topic of “Gwyneth Leech” that day and each one held a photocopy of the Times article. They asked questions in hesitant English and I tried to explain words like "upcycle" and "encaustic" and "artefact".

International language of drawing on a used paper cup
Hypergraphia in the Flatiron Prow, NYC

By Saturday afternoon it was hard to keep up; so many faces and names, stories and observations, everyone filled with delight. I drank it all in as fast as I could, still thrilled and astonished that paintings on humble paper coffee cups, salvaged from a trash fate, could inspire so much good feeling. My stock pile of cups was diminishing rapidly as people attempted their own drawings and many friends waved through the glass and didn’t try to come inside.

Reflecting on the cup installation
A visitor to Hypergraphia in the Flatiron Prow, NYC

I had two stand-out visits. One was from Cameron, a young autistic man paying his third visit to the Prow, who brought me a rose. Each time he comes he has been delighted by the variety of my imagery and has lingered long studying each cup and describing the scenes and patterns. He has been the most observant of my visitors. 

 Flowers for the artist on the final day

The second special visit was from my most loyal fan, Maggie aged 3, and her mother Susie. Maggie has stopped by on her way to pre-school every afternoon for five months and waved through the glass. She has been inside several times to draw and has extraordinary focus. On this day she presented me with a bouquet of orange tulips and yellow daffodils, colors especially chosen for me. I was deeply honored.

Then time ran out. From 5-7pm, four of us disassembled the installation to an audience of melancholy faces outside the windows. Then we transported the boxes to my studio where they are now stacked until the next venue, details to come.

 A Tranquil Evening at the Flatiron
Gwyneth Leech, the Cup Drawings: Studio in the Prow
September 20, 2011 - February 18, 2012
Photograph by Marianne Barcellona

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Prowess: How to Talk to an Art Critic

Gwyneth Leech Hypergraphia Cup Installation, evening
Prow Artspace, Flatiron Building, NYC

I was outside the Flatiron Prow the other day with my bottle of Windex and paper towels, cleaning finger marks off the plate glass windows. Grown ups often touch the windows when pointing out their favorite cups to each other; kids will press their noses and palms right against the glass. I am not complaining - it is wonderful to have enthusiastic viewers! But Angel, the usual window cleaner, is here just once a month. so I play janitor in between.

Getting a positive review
Renoir girl outside my window.
 View from the Flatiron Prow
A man came up to me carrying his takeout coffee (small brown cup, flat lid, wrapped in a napkin).
He asked rather belligerently, "What exactly is the point of this installation?"
I drew breath. He actually looked kind of angry.
"Well," I said, "it is about the inventive potential of the human spirit. The artist has saved all her used paper coffee cups for years and she has drawn and painted on each one by hand. There must be almost 800 cups hanging in there. And each one is a different."
"Oh!" He said, and stalked off, apparently satisfied. 
And I went back to cleaning the glass. 

Angel on a monthly window cleaning visit.
Yes, 60 degrees on February 1st, 2012!
Photo by Caroline Nye

A whole lot of glass to keep clean.
Gwyneth Leech Hypergraphia Cup Installation 
Prow Artspace, Flatiron Building, NYC