Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan

I was attracted to this particular one because of the way the text (WSNY - MADE IN INDIA) matched the pattern of the manhole. While doing this painting, I explored different colors and changed my color scheme to yellows, oranges, browns, and golds. Colors that are maybe closer to a land I often long for...India.

(When I had finished the first part of this painting, I looked around for a place to buy milk for the cereal I had brought with me. I was tired, hungry, and completely splattered with paints. Without thinking, I walked into a kosher butcher shop and asked for milk. I will never forget the strange looks I received.)


(Painted in Midtown)

The cars are more connected then the people that ride them. All try to avoid human contact but most wouldn't forfeit a ride at any cost. Slide along this vibrating horizontal line beneath the vertical ones above. Find your way out in search of your own space.


(Painted on the Upper East Side)

Warm, dusty, and dry. Walking miles to find something that cannot be seen on the West Side. Dig, scrape, sweep, clean, and hope for an artifact that has no date or time in a place where history classes always end up. (sold)


(Painted near Hells Kitchen)

"I know this manhole with your name on it that I've been wanting to do." He signs a two-dollar bill, gives it to me, and says, "I want it. It would be cool if you could use tie dye colors like in the Sixties."

As soon as the mercury hit 50 degrees, I hit the pavement. Totally relaxed, I was painting near an old, dilapidated bar. By 10 A.M. my canvas needed wetting but I had run out of water. I walked into the bar to fill my water bottle. "Good morning. Do you think you could put some water in this bottle for me." "No." "Do you think I could fill it in your bathroom sink?" "No. The bathroom is for customers only." "OK, may I have a juice? " No" "Very well, have a good day."

I left and still relaxed and peaceful continued painting on the dry canvas. Here comes Mr. Bartender. "What are you doing out here? "Oh, I'm just doing some painting and it is going really well" "You can't be doing this here. People are complaining." I look around expecting to see angry faces, but there is not a person in sight! "Will you let those people know that I should be done soon and out of their way." He storms off and returned five minuets later declaring,
"The boss says you have to go." "Will you see if your boss wants to take a look at this? It is almost done and he might really like it." Five minutes later he storms out and angrily says, "You can't just paint wherever you want. This ain't the Sixties, man." I smiled, looked down at the finished painting, and said. "Yea it is but thanks for your opinion." He growled once more. "No, you don't understand. This ain't the Sixty's man!"

I cleaned up, entered the bar once more, and said "Thanks again for all your help. You have a good day."


(Painted outside Battery Park)

Drop in mid-August and let me know if it will be a scorcher tomorrow. Is it possible to wear less than I wore today without offending some obsolete NYC decency act? Take a wrench to the hydrant and wish that I could dance in the street like the two year old wearing only a diaper. (sold)


(Painted in the West Village)

How did I end up here? Put me where I belong so everyone can slap a
title on my neighborhood: Nolita, Alphabet City, the LES, whatever. Can they just make up their minds? Wait a second. Who is the they that seem to claim these blocks: the Puerto Ricans, the Jews, the Italians, the Russians, and everyone else. I don't care who they are, but will someone just take me back to the hood. (sold)


(Painted in the West Village)

How did I end up here? These people can never make up their minds
whether they want to leave this island or not. At least my people know that Brooklyn is the place where they want to stay. My home has everything that this place has and there are more places to park. Take me back to my crib! (sold)


(Painted in Midtown)

My brain is full of pain. My heart is full of love. My hands are full of dirt and my clothes are full of paint. How am I seen en route to my next creation? Most see me as just another New Yorker without a home. The upside of that is few try to hurt me. The downside is few try to help. On this day another without a home decided to help. He was my lookout and didn't even think of a handout because I looked just like him. No words today. Just a nod: a nod for the cops, a nod for building management, but a smile for completion. As I handed him my lunch, I returned the nod and the same smile for completion. (sold)


(Painted in Chelsea)

It must have fallen from the moon to damage the heaviest iron that India can produce. One of a kind; I had to get it. The challenge. It is in the middle of a busy New York City intersection. Time to borrow the Con Ed cones and get into character. The police car passing by bought it but not the parking cop who had nothing to do on a Sunday morning at 6 AM. It's almost there. I can float it back to the studio. I think I landed enough paint on it.


(Painted in Tribeca)

Taste the sounds. Taste the beats. Taste the rhythms. Taste the screams. Taste the whispers. Feel the vinyl. Reverse the tape. Cue the CD. Fire up the band. Stop in one place and let it all simmer. (sold)


(Painted where the village meets Chelsea)

Just scratching the surface of time when opening a latch on the sidewalk and dropping coal in warmed the chilled families above. Maybe merging these colors will turn this chilly spring day into a warm one. (sold)


(Painted in Chelsea)

Watching Juka, tall and thin, walk up the block towards me in vivid greens or pinks, I think only of her smile. As I painted, I wanted the colors that landed on my canvas to glow just like her. (sold)


(Painted in a city park)

Morningside or Central Park where straight lines of the city disappear? Trying to get a closer look at the surface of a turtle's shell floating in the pond at Morningside. Experiencing the isolation in the middle of Central Park. The sounds of the City still find their way in but they can't interfere with my feeling the lines on a leaf. (sold)


(Painted in the West Village)

It was now in the PM and the traffic was busier than it had been earlier. Cars drove over my canvas but I didn't care. I was feeling good. I was ready to take on any energy that came my way, even that large truck with double rear tires headed my way. As I dodged all the traffic, I must have entertained the Po' Restaurant folks. I used the pigments that jumped off their plates onto my palette for this painting. As I pulled the canvas up from the asphalt, I felt a high greater than the one experienced by the people watching me sipping Òbubbles.Ó I didn't need one sip of their bubbles! (sold)


(Painted in the Wall Street area "Old New York")

Old New York is a place where shadowed streets create a consensual moodiness even on the sunniest days of the year. What is the color of this neighborhood? Gray cobblestone or the same color as the currency running through it - some days like a river; other days like a dripping faucet. Its flow reflects the energy of the people trying to fill their buckets. (sold)


(Painted in the meat packing district)

If there were one person that should hold this title, he would be rich - rich in color. He would have a sparkling luster and be cherished like an old silver coin. He would be bursting with strength and have both an internal and external boldness that would always be part of his arsenal to use whenever needed. That, to me, would be the one to call Mr. New York. (sold)


(Painted on the border of Harlem)

At my last show, the NBA noticed what I was doing. I felt great knowing that those I respect also respected my work. I love basketball. I love the elements that make up the game and the basic principles that I can apply to my day-to-day living. Most of all, I love the energy and the passion that surrounds the game. Most artists search within their work for a safe place to put their love or pain. But for the many fans and players that I have met, the NBA has been a safe place to put their energy, their love, and their pain. This painting is my thank you to the league, and all the great players over the years. (sold)


Neighborhood: SOHO

When I arrived at the location I had intended to paint, I could not believe that a huge concrete barrier was covering the manhole. There had been a bomb threat and the FBI used these barriers to close the street. Disappointed, I didn’t know what I was going to do because I had set this day aside for painting. Not willing to lose a painting day, I started to walk north and carrying all my materials with me. I ended up in SOHO, where I found something very similar to the manhole I had originally wanted to paint. Actually, this manhole worked out better, but there was just one problem. The manhole was right in the middle of a driveway. Cars were pulling in or out and I had to dodge traffic as I painted. Most of the drivers were great; they could see that I was all splattered with paint and knew what I was doing and went around me.
I especially like the strong brush stroke patterns in this piece. I think that the greens and yellows give it a kind of floral feeling. It was a hot day and the painting dried quickly, but I had fun painting this piece.  (sold)


Neighborhood: East Village

This Acrylic on canvas is a manhole or similar to the style of a manhole which I found in the middle of the street. I received few verbal abuses or complaints. People did walk by and acknowledge the painting. Some even wanted to talk to me even though I had my headphones on. I couldn’t interrupt my work and had to ignore them. I felt bad because I like communicating with people on the streets.

Initially, I had intended to paint a different pattern, but when I arrived at the location, the doorman in front of the building yelled at me, “You can’t paint here. You are not allowed to be here. This is private property.” I was so frustrated, I stormed off and walked angrily back to my car. As I was getting into my car, I looked down and saw this grate in the street. Struck by its horizontal lines, which seemed to calm me, I decided to use the lines for my painting. It’s actually not a grate, but more like one of the large plates you often see on streets that go “bump, bump, bump” when you ride over them. Anxious to get started, I stretched a piece of canvas over the grate and began painting. It was a hot day in August and I wanted to document the heat and all that frustrated energy I had exerted earlier toward the doorman. On days that I know I am painting a manhole, I do not eat or talk before painting. But prior to my painting this manhole, I had talked and exerted energy. When I had completed the painting, I went back, apologized to the doorman, and thanked him because the piece that I ended up painting was far better than the one in front of his building. (sold)


Neighborhood: Chelsea

Located on a sidewalk on 17th Street, this manhole is the first painting I did in this series. It is a big, common manhole. I was impressed by its beautiful geometric designs, namely, circles, hexagons, and a necktie shape that you can see. Often, one of the problems that I encounter while scouting manholes is finding ones that are clean. This particular manhole was very dirty and I had to clean parts of it. The concrete wedged between some of the designs made it difficult to pull up many of its images and shapes. You can actually see the sidewalk lines on the left side of the painting. I kept those because I thought it made the painting more interesting.

One of the interesting things I recall about painting this is how people reacted to me as I painted. I was covered with paint and looked like a bum living on the streets. As people in the office building came out, they watched the progress of this painting, commented about it, and really seemed to get into the whole experience. I thought this was great. But when the painting was finished and I asked to use their bathroom, I had to chuckle when they said, “No.” (sold)


Neighborhood:  West Harlem
I called this painting “Manhattan Born” because the original text on these manholes is Manhattan BRO.  There are not many Manhattan BRO manholes of this type. The most common ones are Manhattan BPW.   I was drawn to it by the way its text works: the BORN is the end of Manhattan when you actually look at the manhole. I also liked its text and the patterns. 
It took me a long time to find this manhole.  Actually, not find it.  While working on this series, I noticed that if I found a manhole in the middle of the street, there was usually another one on the sidewalk somewhere in the neighborhood.  I refer to this pairing as the Brother/Sister Manhole Principle.  Often I had no difficulty finding the manhole in the middle of the street, but usually had to look for the one on the sidewalk before I painted it.  For this one, I could not find the one on the sidewalk.  Struggling to find it, I asked people around the area if they knew where it was.  No one knew and most thought I was crazy looking for a manhole. 
 Someone told me that the City closes the street for the children in the neighborhood to play.  At the time, I didn’t think that this would interfere with my work.  However, on the day that I went to paint, the manhole had just been re-tarred and some of the kids playing in the street took my paints and started to paint me as I worked.  As the day and my painting progressed, the kids started to get involved in my work.  This was fine until they got crazy and started spilling paint all over it.  I still remember one little girl who actually poured water all over my painting!  But, when I was finished, it all came together.   If you look closely at the painting, you can see black spots. These spots are actually tar.  I like to highlight my work with what I call metal colors.  This one is highlighted with gold colors.  (sold) 


Neighborhood:  West Village
This painting depicts another common manhole.  It has the most depth of all the paintings in this series.  Its simple pattern allowed me to explore some things on the outside of this manhole that I liked.  The more I explored these things on the outside, the more the manhole in the middle popped up.  Even though I had seen this manhole often, I chose this particular one because it is close to my favorite pizza joint, Joe’s Pizza, down in the West Village.     Whenever I took breaks from my painting, I was able to get a couple of slices of pizza.  I have a very strong attraction to Joe’s Pizza and I always tell them that when New York City drives me crazy, I have to ground myself with why I am still here.  Generally, my daughter and Joe’s Pizza are the two reasons I stay in New York.  (sold) 


Neighborhood:  East Harlem
This Acrylic on canvas resembles a manhole, but it is not a manhole.  It is a heating system cover.  In many of my paintings, I pull up certain text that I like, leaving the other text on the manhole down.  This is a prime example of my pulling up text that I thought was striking, i.e., the words New York Works.    If you look at the back of most of these paintings, you can see the original text and what the manhole itself looked like.  But on the front side of the paintings, you see only what I bring up.
 I knew I was going to have a day off on the 4th of July and had already scouted a location to paint.  I like working on holidays because I feel I am getting ahead of everybody else who isn’t working.  I also wanted to paint something with a 4th of July theme.  That day, the weather was good and with my paints in my box (reds, whites, and blues), I headed downtown to the location.  On the way, I found this one and decided to do it instead, but there was one problem: half of the manhole was almost buried underneath the sidewalk.  That meant I had to recreate some of its the round edges.  As you can see on the left side of the painting, the edges are not as clean as those on some of my other paintings.  I really enjoyed painting “New York Works.”  It reminds me of the 4th of July and of fireworks. (sold)


Neighborhood:  Brooklyn Heights

 This painting is not a Manhattan manhole, but it is a sidewalk, ground sculpture of a sundial.  My intention that day was to go out and paint a particular manhole.  When I arrived at the location, I realized that I had already done that particular one.  I had dragged this big piece of canvas with me to the site, all my equipment, and all my paint, but there was nothing to paint.  I looked around and spotted this sculpture and thought, “This is going to be beautiful.”  I used the same technique that I use for my manhole paintings.  As you can see, the lines are cleaner because there was no humidity in the air the day I painted it.  I was able to really hone in on my favorite parts of this manhole.  I especially like the way the water I used to spray it with dried peacefully in the center.  As I observe this painting, the colors change on me.  Sometimes they are purple; sometimes blue.  Other times, the colors are yellow.   For the longest time, I did not like this painting, but it has become one of my favorites. 


Neighborhood:  Morningside Heights

The oldest of the manholes in this series, this painting is of a manhole made in 1872, which I painted shortly after my mother had passed.  Although it is an old manhole, you can see that the lines are still very clean.  I have seen this manhole in other locations, but the lines were often decrepit.  In these manholes, the metal or the iron had broken down and the lines were not as clean.  This manhole looks as if it was made yesterday even though it is over one hundred years old and really stood out for me.

Although I was tempted, I intentionally did not bring up the date.  I strongly believe that when someone dies, you can’t put a date on that death.  I often hear people saying that “So and so died at aged fifty or some other age.” How can they say that?  There is no real date.  What is important is what the person accomplishes on this earth in the amount of time she is here. That, to me, is what is timeless.