Thursday Spotlight

Thursday Spotlight: Meet Kweighbaye Kotee, Founder and CEO of Bushwick Film Festival

At her core, Kweighbaye Kotee is a community builder: she triumphantly brings together artists and audiences, neighborhood long-timers and newbies alike. Her talents coalesce most notably in the Bushwick Film Festival, her passion project that is celebrating its 11th anniversary October 11–14.  Greenpointers caught up with the local curator and filmmaker to discuss the morphing landscape of film, the partnerships she builds, and the side projects that continue to keep her busy.

Greenpointers: Do you live in Brooklyn, and if so where and for how long?
Kweighbaye Kotee: I have lived in Brooklyn for 14 years. Williamsburg for two and now Bushwick for 12.

GP: Can you talk a little about the genesis of the Bushwick Film Festival? And how many participating volunteers and films are there in the coming festival?
KK: I started the Bushwick Film Festival in 2007, while I was still in school at NYU. Initially, I really just wanted to share my love for indie film with other people in the neighborhood and celebrate filmmakers. Later on, I realized my position in the industry (female, immigrant, a woman of color) and wanted to do more. I began to use the festival as a place to bring people of all backgrounds together to connect through film. I also wanted to use our platform to help diversify the industry. This year, we plan to select about 100 films out of the 1,200+ films that submitted to the festival. Typically we have around 50 volunteers and interns who make it all happen. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Steve Wasterval and How an Evolving Greenpoint Affects His Paintings

Steve Wasterval’s local corner deli next to @alterbrooklyn and @brouwerijlane
Steve Wasterval isn’t from here, but you may be led to believe otherwise given the authenticity and love behind each of his New York paintings. In a culture where the definition of art can often seem haughty, where the medium itself is ever-shifting, there is something beautifully traditional and startlingly contemporary about Steve’s acrylic paintings: They simultaneously represent impressionism from the days of yore while also reflecting the evolving city he adores and inhabits. Steve is participating in Greenpoint Open Studios June 2–3, so if you long to see his paintings in person after reading his interview, you’ll soon have the chance!
Greenpointers: On your site you say you make art for “real” New Yorkers.  Are you a real New Yorker?
Steve Wasterval: I do say that — and no I am not. Unfortunately, I’m from Texas so I am one of those people that moved from the south or midwest and are forever trying to earn our local status. My wife is from here though, and so is her family (her grandparents were born and raised in Greenpoint on Berry Street) so I’d like to think I’m native by marriage. Plus nobody can top me when it comes to love for the city! You may think you love her more cause you’re a Yankees fan, or know where to get the best slice or whatever, but I paint her everyday. She’s all mine in that way, no one loves her the way I do.

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Thursday Spotlight: Pinky Weber Dishes on Donuts and the Patriarchy

Pinky Weber, photo by Ian Hartsoe

It’s hard to mistake an original by Pinky Weber. With their striking colors and iconic motifs, Pinky’s works look beautiful in varying mediums — as murals on brick buildings or even as square images on Instagram. Greenpointers spoke with the artist, the first in our May Thursday Spotlights to also be participating in the upcoming Greenpoint Open Studio. She’ll be featured in the neighborhood-wide event on June 2–3 — look out for her enjoyable and comical pieces next month! Til then, learn more about her perspective on street art, women in the field, and — above all — donuts in our engaging interview below.

Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn?

Pink Weber: I’m originally from San Francisco, but first moved to New York City in 2010 to attend Parsons The New School for Design. After a few years of Manhattan life under my belt, I decided Brooklyn was where I needed to be. I moved to Greenpoint in 2013 and haven’t looked back since!

GP: You’re a donut enthusiast! Are you a Peter Pan loyalist or do you have other favorites?

PW: Yes! I love donuts so much that my first mural was a 20×30 foot donut mural in Bushwick, which I painted as a collab with Christian Hooker. I’m pretty loyal to my gals in the green and pink uniforms over at Peter Pan, but occasionally dabble in the donuts at Dough Donuts. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Carol Joo Lee Fuses the Immigrant Narrative into Her Art

A piece from ceramist Carol Joo Lee’s current show, Naturalized

The immigrant story is fertile ground for storytelling; it has been highlighted in literature (Ragtime), theater (Hamilton), film (La misma luna), and — of course — art. Carol Joo Lee, the bold and elegant Korean-American ceramist/artist, is now communicating part of her story in Naturalized, her art show that is now on display at Greenpoint Hill until May 27. We got to know Carol, talk about her parents’ influence on her work, and even how Manhattan (gasp!) may be her sturdy fortress even as her work spans boroughs.

Greenpointers: Naturalized has been open since Greenpoint Gallery Night on April 20. Can you talk about the viewers’ reactions to it?

Carol Joo Lee: I was quite surprised by how many people actually read the press release at the opening and wanted to share their own feelings or experiences with me. I’m naturally a very private person and don’t like to share that much about myself, so I felt a little exposed given that the backstory behind the work was quite autobiographical. But I felt very touched by that response.  Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Creating Homes for Plants with Not Work Related

Not Work Related may boast the Picasso of ceramists: Sarah Hussaini, a mainstay Brooklynite, a pottery virtuoso, and a Greenpointers market favorite. (Catch her and her ceramic wonders at our spring market on April 22!) In this week’s Thursday Spotlight, we caught up with Sarah and discussed her fresh Instagram, the “succulent mansions” she creates for plants, and her budding career (no pun intended).

It’s all plants — and fun — at Not Work Related

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Thursday Spotlight: Hyperrealistic Artist CJ Hendry’s Pantone Inspired Rooms are Surreal

Who said it ain’t easy being green?

If you didn’t get a chance to check out the local art here in the historic Leviton building during last year’s Greenpoint Open Studios, here’s a good reason to venture out to 276 Greenpoint Ave before the next one on June 2-3 (Mark your calendars!):  Greenpoint-based artist, CJ Hendry’s MONOCHROME is an immersive art installation where you can wander through seven rooms, designed in high saturation Pantone colors. Our favorite color, is of course the green kitchen.

Follow the yellow dots into a dark industrial hallway to the freight elevator, which will eventually open up into an expansive raw warehouse space that hosts the makeshift rooms.  Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Artist Richard Humann on An Evolving Neighborhood

Richard Humann

I met artist Richard Humann on a Queens-bound G train in the summer of 2015. He was reading a book about Chinatown and I asked him if it was good. It wasn’t, he noted, but we talked and we stayed in touch, sharing our memories and dreams of Brooklyn. He’s traveled the world for his award-winning art, but since 1985 Greenpoint has always been home. While he can’t recall creating any conscious odes to Greenpoint in his work, the neighborhood and its residents have undoubtedly influenced him in his decades here.

When he moved to Brooklyn from his hometown of Stony Point, New York (“I would say it’s like an hour north of the city but it’s a million miles away”) after college, he shacked up on Meserole Avenue. In the years since, he’s migrated a mere block over. “I never left,” he smiles. When he first moved to Greenpoint, Humann recalls that Williamsburg was considered a hotter area because it was more rough and tumble – south of 7th Street wasn’t considered safe. He had shows in both neighbs though, from the Minor Injury Gallery – one of North Brooklyn’s first as far as he’s aware – to Williamsburg’s Pan Arts gallery, both long closed.

He’s stayed put as the neighborhood changed over the years along with the rest of the borough and city. I spoke with him about his thoughts on gentrification, the bad old days, bygone businesses, and what the future holds for Greenpoint. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Artist Hein Koh, Wide Eyed

Hein Koh in her Greenpoint studio, courtesy of Ian Hartsoe

It’s hard not to love sculptor Hein Koh and her carefully constructed amorphous spandex sculptures. Nearly twice her height, Hein’s wide eyed and weeping flowers watch over us while we talk. Her Greenpoint studio feels like a remix to a more extensive, and sparkling, Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse set, a reference she immediately identifies with. A mother to twin daughters, Ami and Oni, the brilliant whimsical world Hein has created explores the innocence of childhood, and the melancholy she faces in her inability to return to such virtuous times. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Louis Fratino, Embracing Tenderness

Louis in his studio. Photo: Ian Hartsoe

Louis Fratino’s Long Island City studio is part of the Artha Project artist residency program. Among the others in the shared studio space, I am quickly drawn to a long wall jeweled with multiple small paintings that hold snapshots of moments shared between Louis and those close to him.  A gentle stretch from an inversion, a simple sip from a cup, two figures nuzzling in bed, the paintings bolster warmth, solidarity, and peacefulness. His works are clearly intimate in both scale and subject. Each supple figure is cradled safely in its tight frame, yielding both tenderness and eroticism. His painting in progress hangs in the center of a paint speckled circle, warmly haloed by the brush strokes of preceding works. There is an intuitive desire to squeeze the juicy feet and bellies of his adoring figures. The dry and waxy rendering of paint invite a closer look into his inventive mark making techniques that create a diverse textural surface.

Greenpointers: When were you first exposed to art as a child?

Louis Fratino: My first experience with art was probably my amazement with various illustrations in children’s books as a kid. I used to hoard books and try to figure out how they could make the character look the same on each page. I made my own versions of books as a kid. We also lived not so far from Washington D.C., so I was able to go to the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art which was incredible. I always really loved drawing and don’t remember having a defining moment of figuring that out. It was just always something that I did. I would go through multiple reams of printer paper in a weekend. Eventually my parents noticed and heard from my teachers that I was very interested in art. I took art classes in high school where we had a very robust program. The art room was in the old gymnasium where six or seven people could be working on easels at one time. I have always made work about relationships and intimacy and love. In high school I was making paintings about my siblings, and when I was in a relationship I started painting the person I was with.

Dolphin Street, 2017, oil and crayon on canvas, 30 x 24 in. Photo: Greenpointers

Louis: I decided I wanted to study painting my freshman year of college. I was trying to entertain the idea of a dual degree in illustration right up until graduation. I made a manuscript for a children’s book and had done some editorial pieces. I decided it wouldn’t be possible to go all the way and do both at the same time. There are tons of artists who make publications and do things outside of painting when they’re older that I want to do, but I think right now it just demands too much to try to build both of those careers. Illustration in a way feels harder to me sometimes because you don’t get to just generate your own material. And maybe that’s why I’m ultimately a painter.

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Thursday Spotlight: Kate McQuillen, Meeting Her on the Astral Plane

Kate McQuillen greets me from the driveway of her charming and noteworthy Greenpoint house, directing me into the garage where her fluorescent printmaking studio is set up. Her companion Kassie, a sterling herding dog, is attentively surveying the area and happy to have another to look after. The inherent New York City ankle weights have already slipped away, leaving us to speak candidly in Kate’s kaleidoscopic space. While we talk, the garage door remains open and Kate periodically greets her neighbors passing by. I feel as if I have crossed a portal into an alternate dimension, or at least am no longer in the city.

Kate and her dog Kassie in her Greenpoint garage studio. Photo: Ian Hartsoe

Greenpointers: When were you first exposed to art as a child?

Kate McQuillen: My dad studied painting in graduate school, and during my childhood worked as a graphic designer in Boston. We always had an art studio in the house, which allowed me the opportunity to experiment with literal cut and paste tools like transfer paper. I’d imagine this is what initially pushed me into printmaking. I think of printmaking processes as the perfect place between design tools and fine art tools. I always had a lot of interest in drawing, but was never super into oil paint. I think my new work is taking on a form reminiscent of paintings, but I can still use the printmaking tools I’ve grown to know and love. Continue reading

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