Monday, September 20, 2010

Rest Stop - SOLD

When Bill announced that this months Virtual Paintout would be Manhattan Island I jumped for joy. It's my turf, my stomping ground. I was born in NJ - across the river from NYC - and still live there to this day. And I've had many different "lives" in NYC - at least so far, in my lifetime.

Different "lives" you ask. Yes. Not in the form of reincarnation, but in the form of identity changes and lifestyles. Each lifestyle/identity lived a span of time that was usually marked by one change in the beginning and another at the end of the span - be it a specific event or a change in people. And these are the identities I refer to - each one different in some way from the others - and likewise, the same as the others. I don't think our own identity can go unchanged when events and/or the people in our lives change. It seems a natural occurrence that a part of us changes with each event or person.

Going back to the Virtual Paintout for September, the location is an area that has gone in and out of my life, at different ages and with different people. I thought it would be fun to maybe capture some of the places around the city that were connected to those different stages, and so I began my search in Google maps. And with the search I also did a memory-journey back in time, to the various stages in my life. Some good, others maybe not so good. (amazing what gathers on the shelves in the brain).

I recall going into the city when I was quite young, with theater loving relatives. I remember eating a hamburger the size of a small Buick at the Auto-Club with my first full-time employer, and then taking the tour through "the mill" - a display done by Burlington Industries, the company I worked for on, of all streets, Avenue of the Americas! In my naive youth I thought that street's name was fantastic! Years later I learned that only the tourists called it such, to us "seasoned" New Yorkers it was just 6th Ave!

Well, those past "lives" would be very hard to capture through Google. The theater district is totally different than when I was a child, the Auto-Club is no longer there, and Burlington Industries dismantled "the mill" display long ago. I did wander through the theater district in Google and did take a screen grab or 2 of the area. But I thought I would keep searching.

In the 1980's, I worked for a NJ company that had many of their customers in NYC - so I was in the city every day. The '80's were not the best of times for the city - some areas were downright dangerous, with either gangs, drugs or crime. Times Square was dangerous then - not at all the tourist attraction it is today. And 9th Avenue, where I walk these days, was filled with rival gang fights - especially at night. Nothing from that life in the '80's can be found in Google, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps small spots exist in different areas but you have to look really hard in Google to try & find them.

Also in the 1980's I worked the night shift, and at one point, became friends with a girl who loved to dance. Every night (such energy we had), when our shift ended at 12 midnight we would get into my car & drive over to the upper East side where we would stand in line to get into a certain club (I want to say it's name was Tramps, but I can't say for sure. I do recall it was on East 81st Street). We became such regulars that we were allowed entrance most nights without standing in line. NYC is known for it's night life, and it has numerous "after hours" bars - bars that open at 3 am and go until morning. It was not unusual for those at the dance club to meet up again at the after-hours bars. These after-hours bars were not fancy, more hole-in-the-wall types of places - with no outside signs or indications of a bar. We sometimes had to tell "who sent us" or "who we knew" or had someone's card with us to get admitted, but usually it was assumed that if you knew where to look to find the bar, that you were "sent" by someone. Well I searched, in Google, all the streets I could remember but turned up nothing that even remotely reminded me of those places or that time. Ok, one more "life" I couldn't capture in paint through Google.

I did use Google to explore my current area, where I walk to & from my place of work. But the sad thing about Google is that in a large, busy city the photos are shot from a car that is within traffic. Unfortunately, some of the best spots to try & capture are lost by a passing bus or a parked truck. Nothing on my current path proved to be interesting to paint through Google.

Then I remembered a "life" I had with a couple I met through work, that lived in NY. Their apartment was in Greenwich Village and I started going into NY every weekend. We would attend various art or dance shows, and shop all around the village. Food was wonderful and varied everywhere, and the Village had (and still does) have so much to see. So I took my little Google man and started dropping him within the Village area - I kept trying to find their old apartment house (they have since moved away to the west coast). Finally I found their old neighborhood and most of it has not changed. Yes, the retail stores do change but the basic neighborhood has not. I moved through the Google map until I found their building. Yes, it looked the same - actually, almost identical. But there, in front of their building, I saw a couch on the sidewalk. I zoomed in closer to find someone sitting there - one of NY's homeless, complete with multiple layers of clothing and a shopping cart filled with stuff. I had found a great image to paint.

And so this painting, called "Rest Stop" is of that person and that scene in Greenwich Village. I am not done searching NY, and will probably do at least 1 more for the Paintout, but I'm rather pleased with finding this image. And I love that it's on "one of my old beaten paths!"

West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, NY
Acrylic on canvas, 9x12


Angela said...

Nancie I love this. Arn't people the most interesting.

Linda Popple said...

Very interesting! I like this.

Sally Evans said...

Hi Nancie, thanks for stopping by (as always). Gosh, I thought your rest stop was a photo for a minute! Looks like that guy could do with a rest stop after pushing that trolley around. It must be nice to see everyone's take on your old stomping ground. Great piece, a conversation starter!

Deb Harvey said...

Hi Nancie,

Great piece! And, I loved reading about how this painting came to be. Very interesting journey.

Thanks for stopping by! It's good to be back.

martinealison said...

Peinture remplie d'espoir... Félicitations

Rebecca said...

Very nice! This is a fun painting. It puts a smile on my face. Nice use of neutral colors with a splash of blue.

Margaret Bednar said...

New York. I have been there once and am sure I will make many trips in the future. I have a few kids headed that way very soon, I'm sure. Love your commentary. And I agree about how much energy we had "back then". I would be happy to sieze just a couple of habdfuls of it today. :)

Paula said...

How much you want to bet that that man can play the heck out of that guitar? Great painting, great story! Thanks for sharing.

Nancie Johnson said...

Thank you all! So glad you enjoyed my little story and my painting. I think this guy is quite a character - typical of a NYC street person. And Paula, you're probably right, he probably can play the heck out of the guitar. I'll even venture to say he plays for his food down in the subway stations - you can hear some of the best jazz music coming out from down there sometimes.

Sheryl said...

I enjoyed your story. As I looked around Manhattan (I haven't been to NY) I wondered about people looking for old haunts. We lived in Chicago for a few years and some great memories were made at private "clubs" with unmarked doors in alleys. My VP painting, which ended up looking like something out of a children's book, was a restaurant with the same name as one in my city where lots of romantic events are celebrated. I must have been looking for a connection?

Nancie Johnson said...

Hi Sheryl, & thank you. I bet you did find your own "connection" with the image you painted. I liked your VP painting, it looked a bit dreamy like. Now I know why - where romantic events are being celebrated.


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