Culture

Laid Off Greenpoint Sommelier Creates Nude Paintings of Friends While in Quarantine

Painting by Amanda Geller

After getting laid off from her job as a sommelier at a Manhattan restaurant as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Greenpoint resident Amanda Geller turned to her paint brush set and began working on a series of nude paintings of her friends.

“It started out as a joke when I asked my friends in a group chat if they wanted to ‘send me their nudes’ for me to paint,” Geller said. “Now after five days I have had around 30 people send their pictures — some that I don’t even know.”

Prior to mass social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses, Geller attended weekly figure drawing classes in the neighborhood. “I have received a lot of awesome feedback so far and have had the amazing opportunity to paint women of so many different body types,” she said, adding that she extends the invitation to the greater Greenpoint area.

Many of the women she has painted also work in the hospitality industry and have recently been laid off. “After the quarantine is over I plan to launch an online gallery showing and donate a portion of the proceeds to women in hospitality who have lost work due to the shutdown,” Geller said.

“Mostly the project is something fun during these crazy times that celebrates women and all types of beauty. A woman takes a nude when she is feeling sexy and fucking awesome and I love capturing that in a piece of art that they can show off and feel good about themselves.”

Read more of Greenpointers’ interview with the sommelier-turned-painter: Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: smallhome is Big on Dreams, Creativity, and Style

It feels funny to say we should welcome smallhome (100 Freeman Street) to the neighborhood, even though the brick and mortar storefront has only been around for a few months. But long beyond that period, its steadfast owner, curator, and artist Julia Small has been creating works and home goods at various shops and recognizable markets and pop-ups all over north Brooklyn. And while our Thursday Spotlight series often focuses on the denizens of the Pencil Factory and other kinds of fine artists, it feels important — especially during this tumultuous COVID period — to highlight the artists of many stripes who keep our vital small business scene thriving. Learn more about Julia’s diverse work and career below, and be sure to follow along on Instagram!

Greenpointers: Congrats on smallhome’s opening! How long have you been at 100 Freeman Street, and where were you beforehand?
Julia Small: I moved just down Franklin from Oak street last November. I had been in a pop up space I built out within the kid’s shop Flying Squirrel, and East Williamsburg (across from Artists & Craftsmen, Harefield Road) before that.

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Thursday Spotlight: Alison Clancy and Helping The Flying Dutchman Soar to New Heights

Photo of Alison Clancy by Andrew T. Foster

The press release for Greenpoint creative Alison Clancy’s new performance reads “post-punk mystic meets Wagner in ritualistic dance” — tickle me intrigued! A dancer, singer, and all-around-movement artist (and educator), Alison has worked in institutions big and small, from the Metropolitan Opera and Guggenheim Museum to dive bars and on Reality TV. And while her modern methods may seem to clash with the classical music she performs to, they are perhaps more aligned than one may thing: Wagner, and his contemporaries, were the envelope pushers of their day; their charged, erotic, and emotional scores demanded more of their audiences, and performers, than what may have been the norm. As such, Clancy’s dance honors and uplifts these heightened states, creating a unified piece of singular performance. She recently made a prestigious solo debut in the premiere of the Met’s new production of Richard Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) Here, she speaks about this new show, which though sadly cancelled due to the coronavirus will also find a home on screens.

Greenpoiners: You’ve lived in Greenpoint for a number of years. What attracted you to the neighborhood and how has it treated you as a resident and artist? 
Alison Clancy: I moved here for a boyfriend, but I stayed because I love the mellow energy. It feels like a nice downshift from Manhattan, but there are still so many beautiful people and active culture.

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The Other Art Fair, Popular Greenpoint Event, Postponed

The Other Art Fair, a traveling celebration of worldly and avant art that has popped by the neighborhood for a number of seasons, will be postponing its anticipated stop at The Brooklyn Expo Center from April 30 to May 3. Joining the chorus of a number of other companies’ and events’ cancellations due to the coronavirus, The Other Art Fair is merely the latest in what is likely to be a string of postponed public springtime gatherings. Uniquely, The Other Art Fair is cancelling all of their events around the country through the end of May, while most announced operations seem to be on some kind of hiatus only until early April, at least as of this moment. Greenpointers recently published a roundup of how some local businesses are handling this unprecedented, confusing time.

A message from The Other Art Fair’s founder Ryan Stanier follows:

“After serious consideration, and in light of recent announcements from the CDC and World Health Organization, The Other Art Fair regretfully announces the postponement of its Spring Fairs.

Our team, artists and partners have worked incredibly hard over the past months to present another fantastic event, and this decision has not been taken lightly. The health and safety of our visitors, artists and staff is our top priority in light of the ever-changing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

The decision to postpone our events will affect the following Spring fairs:

London, at Truman Brewery, 19 – 22 March
Sydney, at The Cutaway, 19 – 22 March
Los Angeles, at Barker Hanger, 16 – 19 April
Brooklyn, at Expo Center, 30 April – 3 May
Dallas, at Dallas Market Hall, 7 – 10 May
Melbourne, at The Facility, 21 – 24 May
Chicago, at The Skylight at Board of Trade, 27 – 30 May

Ticket holders will be notified regarding new dates in the coming days. All tickets will be transferable and valid for future fairs, or refundable via Eventbrite should that be requested.

It may be uplifting to hear we are currently working in tandem with our partners at SaatchiArt.com on ways to bring our Fair artist’s collections online so everyone can still experience the impressive works of our artists. As soon as we have updates on this, we will email you with more information.

We are deeply disappointed to have to postpone, but look forward to seeing you again at a future fair. In the meantime, contact us at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.”

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Thursday Spotlight: Alex Russell, the Artist Behind Greenpoint’s First Pictorial Map

Alex Russell with a dog!
If you made it to our recent Love Grows in Brooklyn market, you may have spotted a tall, friendly artist handing out maps like hot cakes. Sure, cartography is nifty and many a Brooklynite fancy themselves lovers of antiques, but this map was more personal to these buyers — some may have been able to even find their homes on it.

Alex Russell was selling his dynamic and delightful map of Greenpoint, the neighborhood’s first official pictorial as inducted by the New York Public Library. Affable and neighborly, Alex has been a Greenpointer for over a decade, carefully observing the ebbs and flows of the neighborhood from his home/studio above Moonlight Mile on Franklin Street. Those years here helped him craft this unique feat, but his time has been marked by more than just art: he took over The Brooklyn Label and, here, explains the many hands who have helped that business evolve. But after years in and out of the food business, he is now turning his attention to another map: he is now commissioned to create the The Great Map of Williamsburg. Learn more about Alex and his work here, and find out how to get your hands on one of his maps!

Greenpointers: Okay, you made the first pictorial of Greenpoint. That’s awesome! Let’s let you show off to begin: how did this come together, and how did you decide what elements to include?
Alex Russell: When I made the decision to move from Los Angeles to Brooklyn 10 years ago, my first choice was actually Williamsburg. I searched hard for an affordable apartment, but couldn’t find anything in my “starving artist price range.” That’s when someone told me to look just north of Williamsburg in an area called “Greenpoint.” I’ll never forget emerging out of the subway. It was February after a huge snow storm. I wandered through the streets and giant snow drifts. It seemed so desolate and industrial; I fell in love with it immediately. There was art and murals in every nook. I had stumbled into an old, forgotten, Polish, hidden secret. I secured the first apartment I toured, which would remain my home for the next decade. I snagged a server job at a “Mexican Street Food” restaurant called “Papacito’s” (now Esme). And I began my life trying to make it in New York City as an artist. It’s had its ups and downs, its triumphs and failures, but in between every gig I always allow myself time to explore new projects and new mediums in order to expand my skill set. The Great Map of Greenpoint started out as one of those projects.
When I began to create it, I sort of had in mind those tourist posters you find in bars and restaurants in tourist towns. You know the ones: super animated, cartoony, and colorful. I wanted to make one of those, but with the flavors I encountered in Greenpoint. I was spending a lot of time at places like St Vitus, Lulu’s, and Safehouse. The tattoo culture and art were strong. As I filled in the map with my local haunts, it felt akin to another one of my passions: scrapbooking. I’ve always enjoyed creating different kinds of time capsules. This was like that. And there was just something pleasing about the layout of the neighborhood. I liked how removed Greenpoint felt from the rest of the city, even though it’s so close it has (arguably) the best view of the Manhattan skyline. I liked that it was surrounded by water on three sides, like a castle with its moat, and McCarren Park capping it off at the bottom. I liked that the streets went in alphabetical order. But, like a lot of my projects, the map fell by the wayside.
Alex Russell’s pictorial of Greenpoint
In 2017, I opened my first restaurant, Brooklyn Label. Only one block from my apartment and one of my favorite brunch spots under the same name when I first moved in. It was the cornerstone of one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Greenpoint, “The Astral.” It was a dream. But to make a long story short, Brooklyn Label wasn’t for me and I left it to my partner in 2019. At the same time, my wife was going through some of our old things and found the map. She encouraged me to pick it back up and this time, finish it. That’s when I started reaching out to fellow business owners around town and getting everyone excited for the map. As far as I knew from my research, no one had done a map of Greenpoint since the 1980s, which you can find hanging in a few businesses. I wanted to make a map that you could find hanging everywhere, highlighting all of the places that were so special to me. Once I was finished and the map was released, Ian Fowler reached out from the New York Public Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, saying they would love to induct my map as the first map pictorial of Greenpoint in their archives. They would later partner with me on my next map, The Great Map of Williamsburg.

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Longtime Greenpointer Curates New Show at The Royal

Longtime Greenpointer Janet Rutkowski has curated the new show Duality at The Royal Society of American Art (400 South 2nd Street). Curated alongside April Zhang-Autio and now showing at this Williamsburg gallery, Duality, as the title would suggest, highlights the yin and the yang: each artist in this exhibition delves into the nature of dualism where seemingly opposite forces may actually be complimentary and interconnected.

The Royal was founded in 2013, and this new exhibit will have its opening reception on March 13. The show runs through April 2 and features artists Natale AdgnotTianlan DengKaren Kettering Dimit, and Michael Yu.

In addition to being an independent curator, Janet is also a sculptor and — with her husband, the musician Walter Kenul — owns the BFD Firehouse Studios at 176 Norman Avenue.

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Thursday Spotlight: Nicolás Noreña on The Million Underscores_ _, Collaborating with Your Husband, and More

A photo from a summer workshop of “Lapa” by Walter Wlodarczyk.

How to put the experience, creation, and witnessing of experimental theater into words? It’s not easy, which explains why it is such an innovative, textured, and vital art form. As a versatile theatermaker and educator in the city, Nicolás Noreña has often been at the forefront of this hard-to-define scene: he teaches at NYU’s ETW (Experimental Theatre Wing), is the artistic director of Brooklyn-based theater company The Million Underscores_ _, and is currently undertaking the herculean task of breathing new life into LAPA, a play written by the Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms in 1930.

All the while, Noreña builds community with his artists and plays with his husband (alongside other key collaborators). As his career will attest, no venue is too small and no story too untapped to be a transformative piece of theater — the most daring step on the audience’s part is to simply show up. And as Noreña testifies, there are myriad venues to frequent that support new work on our side of the East River. His is a career to follow to participate in some of the boldest theater being made today.

Greenpointers: You’re a multi-hyphenate creative and the artistic director of The Million Underscores_ _. Can you explain what this company values and creates?

Nicolás Noreña: Multi-hyphenate creative! I had to look that one up! (Laughs) I guess..? Technically I’ve never hyphenated I usually say I’m a theater maker. But yes that involves writing, scoring, directing, performing, producing, designing costumes, designing sets, and props building, and I think this is what gives our work a very specific identity — our full engagement with each aspects of performance.

The Million Underscores_ _ has grown over the years from our curiosity about how the different languages of performance and the languages of plastic visual composition interact. We make and perform our work with one foot in the theater and one foot in the visual arts, and that is fun because the visual arts have such deep, millennia-old, detailed conversations about the technicalities of art and the philosophy of what art is and what art can be that sometimes lack in the theater. But the theater has this living breathing thing between people as the material, and it has these spaces ran by communities that are very different from galleries, and have this ephemeral quality that make it so unnecessary and mysterious, so similar to life…so we have one foot on one and one foot on the other, but we come from the theater.

LAPA is our first show in which we are starting with a prewritten play, and this transformed the process from the very beginning.

You and your husband Timothy Scott often collaborate, as with this current project LAPA. I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing, what it is like to work with your partner and what strengths you think each of you bring to the process?

Yes, Tim and I collaborate in different capacities, and with each project for The Million Underscores _ _ our way of collaborating changes. This piece we’re directing together which is as intense as it can get in collaboration. You know, working together is challenging and rewarding. I think it’s hard to keep the lines clear especially at home, our bedroom is our costume shop, prop storage, and sleeping area. Our car is filled with materials, more costumes, set pieces, etc. We go out on dinner dates while we plan rehearsal or design wings for the angels in this show. But we have fun doing this together!

Tim and I are very different and usually have nearly the opposite opinion about everything. So it’s always a process, we see one thing, then see the other and make compromises or find things neither of us imagined. I think particularly in this version where we direct together we try to see having different opinions as a way to make the world of the piece larger with more options of legibility.

I like very dramatic shapes and I’m pretty good with seeing a structure, setting the operative logics for a scene and coming up with ideas on the spot. Tim runs deeper and slower. He sees more subtlety, he’s better at directing the actors’ souls and making choices that are mysterious and strong. We’re directing this together because one day we showed up at home after buying the same book by Daniil Kharms. We had never heard of him before!

Photo of husbands Timothy Scott and Nicolás Noreña by Molly Gillis.

Daniil Kharms has a unique style. What has it been like to work with this text?

It’s been a wild ride we’re still on. Daniil Kharms said that he would like language to be so material that if it were to be thrown through a window it should shatter the glass. Now, how to perform that has been our question from day one. In LAPA we are attempting different ways of going at this question.

We are some times using both translations at once which is a very powerful way to make words very substantive (surprise!).

Some of the text is spoken live, some of the text is recorded in tape recorders held by the performers, some text is completely disembodied and just coming from the walls, some text is written in signs for the audience to read. So our version ofLAPA is in some way a journey of language, subject, and object.

We’re also working with an experimental violinist called Marija Kovačević who is scoring the text with noise and sounds and this has elevated the language to another operative level, it brings it closer to music, closer to sound.

There’s no one right path to make a living as an artist in New York. Can you talk about the jobs and opportunities you juggle in your career and what north star you keep in mind to bring inspiration to your work?

Well I think between Tim and I we’ve covered a wide area of jobs that have allowed us to continue working in the theater, including babysitting, retail, hospitality, farming, movie sets, and restaurants.

I currently teach at NYU in the Experimental Theater Wing, which I absolutely love but again it’s an adjunct position and that comes with its own challenges.

However, wether it’s babysitting or teaching at a university, I think my attitude towards these jobs has always been one of gratitude, giving thanks to these jobs for giving me enough money and time that I can maintain my curiosity alive in the studio, and have enough headspace to think about production etc.

It’s not easy, really making art is so much about making space for it in your life.

(Making space for art in my life, that is my North Star.)

The Million Underscores often presents at venues like The Brick, but fringier havens like The Brick have seemed to disappear over the years. Can you in any way eulogize the places you’ve worked, and sing the praises of companies/artist organizations audiences should support?

Well actually I disagree. After I graduated college in 2012 many spaces in downtown Manhattan closed. The Incubator, which used to be Richard Foreman’s Ontological closed to become an after school ballet studio, PS122 closed with promises of a future that played out quite differently… that was sad. As extremely early-career artists our only option then was Dixon Place (bless their souls!), and they’re still operating in downtown Manhattan!

The exodus of the experimental theater scene to Brooklyn has taken some years, but now I think there are some really solid venues in Brooklyn offering space for experimentation, performance, and community building. Beginning with the Brick; now under Theresa Buccheister’s artistic direction it is such a vital, vibrant, and diverse performance venue! There’s also Triskelion, Vital Joint, CPR in the neighborhood, JACK just moved to their new space, Target Margin Theater has an incredible gigantic theater in sunset park where we performed last Summer, Theater Mitu has a theater in Gowanus. And then of course there’s the Bushwick Starr that in some way paved the way for reviewers to take the L train. I think fringe spaces in Brooklyn are having some sort of renaissance, so we all need to support these spaces by going to see their shows, talking about them, chatting with people after, donating money or skills, making new shows for these spaces! This is what keep spaces and communities going!

Oh and of course, The Exponential Festival! It happens every winter and it is what connects all of these spaces. They have presented so many artists, we’ve been part of it twice! It really is very exciting what’s happening.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Come to see the show! We love meeting new people and chatting after the show over some beers. Some Kharms experts are coming and the conversation will be interesting!

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Fashion Sundae Episode 32

Courtesy of
Watching New York

While today it may feel like spring has sprung, just a few days ago the weather called for heavy coats and layers. The 32nd episode of Fashion Sundae from Watching New York captures all of the winter coat action on Bedford Avenue ahead of the return to short sleeves; take a look at the styles spotted last week in Williamsburg:

Courtesy of Watching New York
Courtesy of Watching New York
Courtesy of Watching New York
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The First Nationally Touring Hard Seltzer Fest Comes to Greenpoint

Hard seltzer lovers, rejoice! Seltzer Land, the first nationally touring hard seltzer festival, will come to — where else — the Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble Street) on May 16. Guests will bask in the bubbly, spending the afternoon tasting over 100 hard seltzer varieties while indulging in foods from local hotspots like Mao’s Bao, Fornino, and others. Attendees will dance to live music and enjoy one-of-a-kind immersive experiences, while sipping on hard seltzers from iconic national and beloved local brands. Select hard seltzers brands participating include White Claw, Corona Hard Seltzer, Bon & Viv, Willie’s Superbrew, Crook & Marker, Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water, SeekOut Real Hard Seltzer, and Itz Spritz to name a few.

Tickets starting at $29 are now on sale. There will be two sessions: a brunch session from 12:30 – 3:30 PM and an afternoon party from 5 – 8 PM. VIP ticket holders will get to enter 30 minutes early through an expedited line. In addition, VIPs will enjoy access to an exclusive lounge, full 12oz can, complimentary food samples, and more. Come get fizzy!

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Fashion Sundae Episode 31

Courtesy of Watching New York

Fashion Week may have already passed this month, but the 31st episode of Fashion Sundae from Watching New York is proof that EVERY week is Fashion Week in Brooklyn. Take a look at the styles spotted last week in Williamsburg: Continue reading

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