Art/Music

Thursday Spotlight: Kimia Kline on Leading The Wythe Hotel’s Art Program

Photo of Kimia Kline by Carmen Chan

Since officially kicking off its hotel art program with artist and curator Kimia Kline at the helm, Wythe Hotel has cultivated an impressive permanent collection featuring artists such as Katherine Bradford, Chris Martin, EJ Hauser, Steve DiBenedetto, and Yevgeniya Baras. Along with Rachael Petach, Kimia heads the hotel Residency Program, offering independent artists further opportunities to develop new pieces and share their work with broader audiences. 

The hotel’s permanent collection consists of unique works in each guest room, a tribute to the Brooklyn local creative community and the diversity of talent to be found in the storied neighborhood. The collection primarily focuses on sketchbooks and in-process pieces, emphasizing the alive and fluid creative process. Wythe Hotel’s hope is to foster a connection between its guests and the wider creative community of Brooklyn, and Kimia continues to help foster that. We caught up with the local artist and curator to learn more about her unique work and process.

Greenpointers: Do you live in Brooklyn, and if so where and for how long? 
Kimia Kline: I’ve lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for the past six years.
How did you first get connected to this Artist Residency Program, and why did the Wythe feel like a good fit as a venue?
After building the visual art collection in the hotel over the past four years, I was excited to expand our programming to include performance art and new media as well. After lots of conversations regarding how to better serve our creative community and activate the beautiful and unique spaces in the hotel, we came up with the parameters of the residency and put out an open call. We’ve been thrilled with the interest from both artists and audiences and realize what a need there is for this kind of exhibition opportunity in Brooklyn.

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Glass Blowing and Greenpoint, a Continued Tradition

Glass pendants from Echo Glass

Echo Glass Works at 253 Greenpoint Ave. offers a dazzling variety of one-of-a-kind custom glass jewelry, kiln cast glass, along with blown glass vessels that simply stun. However, this is not the first time that beautiful glass has been created in Greenpoint, which has a history of glass blowing dating back to the Civil War. One of the best-known glass factories in America in the 19th century was the Greenpoint Flint Glass Works located on Commercial Street.

The site of Greenpoint Flint Glass Works pictured in 1907, which later became Gleason-Tiebout Co. (via Brooklyn Eagle Archives)

The founder of the Greenpoint Flint Glass Works was an immigrant from Alsace, France Christian Dorflinger who set up his first glass blowing plants in downtown Brooklyn in 1852. Benefiting from growing demand for glass between 1856 and 1860, Dorflinger, looking to expand, constructed a new factory on the then undeveloped Newtown Creek at Commercial Street in Greenpoint. This factory was larger than his other two and also enjoyed a waterfront location with docking facilities. Because this area of Greenpoint was sparsely developed, Dorflinger also built housing near the factory for his workers, many of whom were also French immigrants.

(courtesy of Friends of The Lincoln Collection)

Quickly, Dorflinger’s annual output reached $300,000, a huge sum for that era, and the quality of his glass was so highly regarded that Mary Todd Lincoln commissioned the Greenpoint firm to produce table settings for the White House. It helped to establish his company’s reputation for fine cut and engraved lead crystal. Many pieces of the Lincoln pattern glassware still remain in the White House collection today. Continue reading

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The Neglected Abstract Masterpieces of the Williamsburg Houses

 

The Williamsburg Houses in 1941

For years brilliant avant-guarde murals lay hidden inside a local housing project, but thanks to an intrepid art history detective they were rediscovered and everyone today can enjoy their genius. It is a local story worth recounting. In 1936, America was suffering the effects of the Great Depression. No one was harder hit by the depression than artists who watched the market for their work shrivel and completely dry up, but Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal offered artists a lifeline.

Their art would be used to beautify the massive building campaign that was at the heart of Roosevelt’s recovery plan, called the Works Progress Administration or WPA. One of the buildings that artists would beautify would be the Williamsburg Houses (164 Ten Eyck St.), which contain 20 buildings in an area around Leonard and Scholes streets. The chief architect of the project was Richmond Shreve, and the design team of nine other architects was led by the pioneering Swiss-American modernist William Lescaze, whose Philadelphia Saving Fund Society building of 1928-32 was one of the first major International Style buildings in the United States.

The design of the buildings was bold, daring and futuristic for the time and the design team wanted to decorate the interior of the complex with art that was equally bold. The four-story houses Lescaze designed included basement community rooms decorated with murals in “abstract and stimulating patterns” designed to aid relaxation.

Abstract Mural by Albert Swinden

The Federal Art Project (FAP) commissioned a series of murals, to be painted in the community rooms at the Williamsburg Houses. The head of the New York Murals of the FAP division in 1937 was Burgoyne Diller, who bravely decided to commission a series of abstract murals from avant-garde, relatively unknown artists. Abstract paintings, like those in the murals, were hard for the general public to appreciate. The artists who painted murals in the Williamsburg Houses eventually won recognition as giants in the field of abstract painting. The painters were Paul Kelpe (1902-85), Ilya Bolotowsky (1907-81), Balcomb Greene (1904-90), and Albert Swinden (1901-61). Diller, an abstract artist himself, put his own art career on hold in order to promote the abstract style in murals before it was accepted in the United States. Diller faced criticism and had to justify every abstract mural he placed in the houses, but he won and the art was installed. Continue reading

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Woordworking Is Greenpoint’s Oldest Craft

Saftuik furniture

The first Greenpointer was a woodworker: Norwegian immigrant, ship’s carpenter and master carpenter of the City of New Amsterdam, Dirck Volckertszen, built the first house here Near Franklin and Calyer Streets in 1645. Before settling locally, Volckertszen had often crossed the East River from Manhattan to cut local stands of timber used to build some of the first houses in New Amsterdam. Saftuik is a local woodworking shop that follows an old tradition in Greenpoint, but pioneers something new and socially responsible as well.

There is another connection between Volckertszen and Saftiuk- getting into trouble with the law. Volckertszen was often arrested and had multiple appearances in court; once for stabbing a man in the stomach in a bar brawl. He was also a reputed smuggler and might well have been a fugitive from European justice.

Saftuik furniture

Saftuik would warm the cockles of old Dirck’s heart because it trains formerly incarcerated people to create one-of-a kind- home furnishings from discarded wood and other reclaimed materials. Saftiuk is the brainchild of Sebastian Saftuik Paulson, who grew up in the very woodsy North of Michigan where he developed his talent for carpentry and a social conscience.

So how did Greenpoint get to be the woodworking capital of New York City anyway? It all goes back to wooden shipbuilding. In the 1850s, there were 12 shipyards that lined the East River waterfront, building clipper ships and schooners, as well as requiring tons of wood. Mountains of wood were floated into Greenpoint and the waterfront resounded all day long with the sounds of wood saws and hammers. Naturally, lumberyards became important businesses. Continue reading

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The Greenpointer Who Became a Taxidermy Legend

 

Brooklyn Taxidermy on Morgan Avenue

Greenpoint does not seem like a very likely place to have a tradition of taxidermy, but this is an area that is always full of surprises and it turns out that Greenpoint made a major contribution to taxidermy.

Taxidermy is defined as the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form. One of the finest practitioners of this art is Amber Maykut of Brooklyn Taxidermy (681 Morgan Avenue). Amber took lessons from George Dante and John Bollman, taxidermists for NYC’s American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian.

At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Amber interned in the special exhibitions/fabrication department and studied the art of the diorama under Tom Doncourt. She also became certified in bird and mammal taxidermy. Brooklyn Taxidermy has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The LA Times, VICE Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Time Out NY, and many other publications, but Amber is neither the first nor the most famous, local taxidermist.

Greenpoint’s legendary taxidermist John Rowley created many of the great dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History and wrote two of the most important texts about Taxidermy.

I came across Rowley’s story in an old edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Old Timers Recollection series in which Greenpointer Alfred Preston in February of 1940 recalled growing up with Rowley. Information on Rowley’s youth in Greenpoint is sketchy, but it appears he was born in 1862 and was largely self-educated.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle – 02/18/1940

Taxidermy began to establish itself as a science and art form in the 1880s just as Rowley was reaching adulthood and New York’s American Museum of Natural History was being founded. One can surmise that he visited the museum, which first opened in 1871, as a boy and like millions of other children, was fascinated by the animals he saw there, but the state of taxidermy was primitive then. Animals were simply stuffed and they were not exhibited in the lifelike dioramas that have enthralled millions of visitors for decades, so creating realistic dioramas was one of the important early tasks of the museum. Continue reading

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Eckford Street Studio Hosts Community Open Studio on December 21

Stressed about the holidays? Draw about it!

Eckford Street Studio, the Greenpoint gem with Drink and Draw Tuesdays, is opening up its doors at 70 Eckford Street to host a Community Open Studio on December 21 from 7 to 10 PM. Have access to studio materials, enjoy free beer and snacks, and take classes in zine-making. Professional artists will be on site to consult, and the community-building event will be taking a suggested donation of $5–25 to support our Scholarship Fund for kids from local Title I schools. “More than anything,” Education Manager Stefanie Lewin says, “we are just excited to welcome community members into the studio for a fun, creative evening.”

Before heading off for the holidays, bring a project you’ve been meaning to complete before the new year and meet local artists!

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Polish Modernists Showcased In “Returning to New York”

Cafe in the Gallery, 1968 (Jozef Czapski)

There’s only one week left to catch the Green Point Projects exhibition featuring the paintings of esteemed Polish Modernist painters, Jozef Czapski and Teresa Pagowska, at Green Point Projects (27 Gem St.).

The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday, from 12 pm – 6 pm, and the current show entitled “Returning to New York” is curated by Marek Bartelik.

The exhibition runs through December 15 and marks the gallery’s fourth show. Green Point Projects has also displayed the work of Polish artists Eugeniusz Markowski, Stefan Krygier, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Stanisław Fijałkowski.

Here’s a sneak peek of the exhibition:

Yellow exhibition, 1974  (Jozef Czapski)

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Interactive Hologram Experience by Looking Glass Factory Featured at Greenpointers Market (12/2)

The artists and engineers from the Greenpoint-based 3D lab Looking Glass Factory will be presenting an interactive hologram experience with the Looking Glass at the Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market this Sunday, December 2, from 1–7 p.m. 

 

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You won’t want to miss the Looking Glass presentation where participants can touch and interact with digital 3D worlds and characters. In the Summer of 2018, the team launched the world’s first desktop holographic display for 3D creators and are excited to spread the word of the hologram with the greater Greenpoint community.

 

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This Weekend’s To-Do List: Greenpointers Market, Oddities Flea, Wellness Fair + Smorgasburg Night Market! (11/30-12/2)

Greenpointers Samhain Fall Market

This weekend Greenpoint has a plethora of local popup shopping destinations to pickup a gift for that special someone for the holiday season. Whether you’re looking for the perfect hand-spun gift, organic cotton children’s clothes, obscure home decor, rare teas, or group acupuncture you’re in luck!

Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market
Sunday, Dec. 2 | 1-7 p.m.
67 West Street, 5th Floor
FREE, dog-friendly, More info

Enter our immersive winterscape inside the cozy Greenpoint Loft (67 West St) that will be donned with an ice castle, snow, snowmen and polar bears, thanks to designs by scenic artist extraordinaire Art of Mano. 60+ talented makers & crafters will have beautiful creations ready for sale and there will be no shortage of FREE things to do throughout the day! RSVP on Facebook and stay updated!

While live music is performed by local bands Pink Slater and Love Always, enjoy festive cocktails and mocktails at our bar stocked with Mulled Wine made with BABE “Winter is the Worst” red wine and Woodward Extract’s Spices and refreshing locally Crafted Beer by Greenpoint Beer & Ale.

Holiday Oddities Flea Market

Oddities Flea Market
Saturday, Dec. 1 – Sunday, Dec 2 | 12 p.m.-6 p.m. (10 a.m. entry for VIP ticket holders)
150 Greenpoint Ave. (Brooklyn Bazaar)
$10 entry at the door and tickets for Saturday and Sunday, Children under 10 are free, More info

Feast your eyes on medical history ephemera, anatomical curiosities, natural history items, osteological specimens, taxidermy, obscure home decor, jewelry, one of a kind dark art, and more. Inside, you will find three floors of unusual vendors from across the country, hand-picked by curator Ryan Matthew Cohn.

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Rocksteady-influenced Supergoup Love Always Performs Sunday at Polar Vortex Holiday Market

Love Always

The Brooklyn-based band Love Always is only a year old, but its seasoned members are a supergroup of sorts, crafting musical vibes with Jamaican/roots, rocksteady, reggae and lovers rock influences.

Patricia Verdolino (vocals), Michael O’Connor (guitar), and Andy Shaw (bass) are original members of 90s Ska band Metro Stylee. Shaw also plays bass in the popular Brooklyn band Bikini Carwash, while drummer Ron Salvo plays with .357 Lover and keyboardist Jeannie Oliver played in Si Se.

Love Always is currently in the studio recording an EP and is testing out their new songs live. What better way is there to warm up this weekend than with live music from Love Always? The band will perform two sets this Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Greenpointers Polar Vortex Holiday Market at 67 West St., we hope to see you there.

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