Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gallery and Coffee Hopping: a Day Out on Orchard Street

Cup of the Day #118
Reconfigured Cup by Gwyneth Leech
India ink, white ink and Encaustic
on used paper coffee cup

This winter just doesn't quit! Who can remember so many snow storms and icy days in Manhattan? Certainly not my children, aged 18 and 10, as they trudge off to school through yet another blizzard. 
I have been pretty much in hibernation since the New Year, not really venturing further from home than my art studio on West 39th Street, 8 blocks away. Actually, this studio-bound period has been a boon, resulting in a push forward into new ideas, tying some cup artworks back to paintings even as I open others up and reconfigure them into sculptural forms. Are they maquettes for monumental works to come, or will they exist as the kind of small scale artwork that draws the viewer close and fills a whole field of vision?
Paintings and Reconfigured Cups by Gwyneth Leech
Oil paint, colored and white ink and 
Encaustic on used paper coffee cups
and oil paint on wood panel

Painted and Reconfigured Cups by Gwyneth Leech
Mixed media and Encaustic on used paper coffee cups

Finally last week, a break in the weather inspired me to head by subway to what is, hands down, my favorite art destination in Manhattan: Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. Orchard Street has traditionally been known as a place to buy coats or men's hats, but it has been in transition for years now. You can still get the coat, or even work uniforms, but from Canal to Houston Street it has become a mecca for those in search of intriguing art exhibitions and awesome coffee. 

On this particular day, I hopped between coffee bars and galleries the length of the street and had some great conversations along the way. Lesley Heller, of Lesley Heller Workspace at #54, talked to me for some time about Deborah Brown's exciting and vibrant new painting show, "Outer Limits", These riveting reinterpretations of classic French portraits executed in an explosive abstracting tangle of deft lines are so recent that many came into the gallery with the paint still wet. Lesley also made some excellent coffee suggestions: Lost Weekend at #45 for bracing, locally roasted coffee, as well as Roasting Plant, #81. She proposed I check out Whynot, a new open at #175, which was to be my last stop of the day. 

At #55, McKenzie Fine Art, I was thrilled with Lori Ellison's current exhibition, which runs for just a few more days, through Sunday February 16th. I have been a fan for a number of years. As well as the mesmerizing pen and notebook paper drawings and small paintings lining the walls, owner Valerie McKenzie opened the flat files at the back to let me study several dozen additional works. I was delighted to add the blue circle drawing pictured below to my personal art collection, in one of my intermittent breathless moments of artist buying art.
At #83, Muriel Guepin Gallery, I was pleased to see several works by Iviva Olenick, whose quirky narrative embroideries are effectively displayed as light boxes. In this gallery, the main spaces are currently given over to the exquisite artwork of Esther Taugot in a show called "Nurtured Nature". The artist has adorned a wide range of small natural objects with seamless, crocheted encasements of yellow cotton thread or bamboo yarn. I was awed by an installation called "Huddle", of found honey bees, each one belted in golden yellow. This extraordinary and beautiful show is up through March 9th. These truly are the kind of small-scale artworks that draw you in and become monumental in effect, despite or because of their small size! 

 Hardy coffee drinker in the snow on
Orchard Street, Lower East Side.

 Mac, barrista at Lost Weekend New York, #45 Orchard Street.
A surfer-themed coffee bar, book store and art gallery.
Coffee roasted in Brooklyn.

Drawings with ballpoint pen on notebook paper
by Lori Ellison in her current inspirational show 
at McKenzie Fine Art, #55 Orchard Street.


Irving Farm,  #88 Orchard Street, 
offers a rustic coffee bar atmosphere. 
An urban outpost for this coffee roaster from Millerton, NY.

TĂȘte (Cardinal), oil on canvas, 30" x 30", 2014 
in "Outer Limits", recent paintings by Deborah Brown.

Lesley Heller in front of 
"TĂȘte (Mariana of Austria)" 2013
oil on canvas 48" X 48"
in "Outer Limits", recent paintings by Deborah Brown
Lesley Heller Workspace, #54 Orchard Street.

  "Seed Dome", Acorns and cotton thread, by Esther Traugot.

"Huddle", Found Honey bees and cotton thread, by Esther Traugot
 in "Nurtured Nature" at Muriel Guepin Gallery
#83 Orchard Street.

Narrative embroideries by Iviva Olenick,
also on view at Muriel Guepin.

Admittedly, three latttes in one day is a lot.
But who can pass up Blue Bottle coffee,
also roasted in Brooklyn, served at 
Whynot coffee bar, #175 Orchard Street.
And it is an art gallery too!

Lori Ellison, at McKenzie Fine Art, 55 Orchard Street, through February 16.
Deborah Brown, "Outer Limits", at Lesley Heller Workspace, 54 Orchard Street, through March 9.
Esther Traugot, "Nurtured Nature", at  Muriel Guepin, 83 Orchard Street, through March 9.

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