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Posts Tagged ‘Greenpoint’

Contaminated

June 6, 2014 | by

Getting back on the skateboard.

nc skate 2

Not long ago I went to lunch with a gracious, well-intentioned editor who was not, I quickly realized, interested in publishing my book, the worst possible pitch for which is: “It’s a middle-grade novel about peak oil.” Having tabled my hopes like a used napkin, somewhere between the Lebanese tea and the shaved fennel, the editor asked what I’d rather be doing with my days, “in an ideal world.” I was surrounded by sandwich-eating professionals and suffocating, psychically, at the thought of being one: that’s when I remembered kickflips.

I’d given up skateboarding when I was fifteen, after breaking my wrist—I hadn’t been on a board since. When, shortly after graduating high school, an acquaintance of mine went pro, the specter of his early success strengthened my resolve not to skate: Why confront my talentlessness when it was more easily avoided? But at lunch that day I realized I was thirty years old and viscerally hating myself for matching the workaday worst of Lower Manhattan in my light-blue button-up and tan oxfords.

So I started to skate again, taking mostly to a ten-block loop in Brooklyn that I call the Greenpoint Skate Lab, a toxic hat-tip to the ecological impact tours that roll through the Lab while I’m there most Saturdays. It’s a deeply unhappy spot, physically and psychically—haunted by the same oil spill (“three times worse than Exxon Valdez”) that, at home, a few blocks away, I only ever remember after having drunk from the bathroom faucet. As a reflective-vested guide explained to a small, inexplicable crowd on one of my first days out, a drunk driver once crashed through the barricade on Apollo Street where it dead ends next to the BP oil refinery. The car dove nose-first into the shallows of Newtown Creek. The water was so contaminated with oil that it was on fire for days. Read More »

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The Eyes Have It: A Visit with Lisa Hanawalt

August 1, 2013 | by

hedderIf the title of her “one-woman anthology” of comics is to be believed, Lisa Hanawalt’s eyes are dirty and dumb. We should all be so lucky: according to My Dirty Dumb Eyes, they allow her to imagine fashionable animals in haute-couture hats, give her insight into the secret lives of chefs (did you know that “Mark Bittman is a vegan before 6 P.M. and a cannibal after 11 P.M.”?), and help her envision some unconventional uses for wedding registry gifts.

With its leitmotif blend of whimsy, wistfulness, and a touch of scatology, the book is funny and life-of-the-party loud. In person, however, Hanawalt is a little shy and a little earnest. It’s not that she takes herself seriously—it’s just that talking about her work seems to feel a little weird. Which is not to say that her comics are improvised or intuitive; in fact, she maintains a running list of ideas with Notational Velocity, working and reworking concepts until they are just right. This demands patience and perseverance: sometimes the idea lies dormant for years until it’s finally time for it to come out and play.

When we met last month in her Greenpoint studio, Hanawalt proudly showed off her Wacom Cintiq, “the most incredible modern invention—besides a dishwasher” she’s ever owned (it’s an interactive pen that allows her to draw and edit directly on her computer screen), talked about some of her recent comics (“It’s all toilet-based humor”), and considered life after art school (she went to UCLA) and the differences between LA and NY.   

CoverI think the way I was looking at this book was like, This is the world through my eyes. That was the easiest way to explain what the hell this book was. I couldn’t point to another book, and be like, That’s the book I’m going to make. So okay, the world through my eyes, what is that world? Well, I see a lot of dirty stuff, and I see a lot of dumb stuff. And it’s sort of just me, trying to be more debased or humorous as a way of entertaining myself. Read More »

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Red and Blue

April 22, 2013 | by

ambulance-lights

It was October, and I was alone. I lived in Greenpoint with a close friend from college, but we were rarely home, and never home together. We floated in and out of each other’s lives. We left ourselves reminders that we had both been there: wet towels tossed over the shower curtain, mugs face down in the sink.

I was reading or writing or worrying; I can’t remember, but it hardly matters. The curtains were open, and the head of the plastic owl strapped to the ledge outside of the living room window was swirling. In retrospect, I should say “swirling ominously,” but this was not unusual: it was loose and spun wildly in light breeze. What I mean to say is I didn’t think twice about anything, certainly not about the lights flashing blue-red-blue-red-blue-red-blue against the wall, until I did.

I went downstairs to take a look.

Around the corner, an intersection was cordoned off with orange police tape. Two cruisers blocked traffic. A small van had stopped in the middle, and as I approached I saw that it was empty and the hood was crushed against the windshield. Read More »

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On the Scent

February 20, 2012 | by

In 2008 Luca Turin, a European biochemist who’d done groundbreaking research on how olfaction works, joined forces with Tania Sanchez, a thirtyish American, to produce an English edition of his cult hit French perfume guide. The result, their Perfumes: The Guide, has a wide readership among people who admire good perfume, but it deserves a wider one among people who admire good criticism of any kind. I found it in the “fashion” section of a classy bookstore, and in retrospect this seems like finding Madame Bovary shelved with the historical romances.

Unfortunately, though, Perfumes has the side effect of making the reader—well, this reader—embark immediately on the kind of quest that leads her to a lot of esoteric corners of the internet and shoddy midtown shops. But more on that later.

I picked up Perfumes on a whim, expecting standard women’s magazine perfume writing: imaginary fruits and lavish adjectives, nonsense marketing descriptions bracketed with pseudoscientific junk about how smells awaken our reptilian base nature. Sanchez seems to have anticipated this concern. “Smell psychologists and the uncritical journalists who love them get a lot of mileage out of calling smell the most primitive sense. But as with all of the work of evolutionary psychologists, the conclusions that support our desires and reinforce our prejudices are those of which we should be most wary,” she writes.

I read the rest of that page standing up in the store and finished the introduction on line at the cash register.

Sanchez goes on to debunk any and all fixed ideas anyone might have had about perfume in an economical four pages. She describes the ways the industry has discouraged serious perfume criticism, from concealing the identities of fragrances’ authors to lying about formulas and content. She explains why this is a golden age of perfume criticism (the Internet). She dismisses the notion that talking about our pleasures ruins them. “The fact is,” she announces in closing, “this stuff is worth loving. As with the tawdriest pop melody, there is a base pleasure in perfume, in just about any perfume, even the cheapest and most starved of ideas, that is better than no perfume at all.”

And then the real fun begins: the reviews. Read More »

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Joe Bradley

February 22, 2011 | by

The artist Joe Bradley has his studio in an old pencil factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There is no buzzer. You must call his cell phone to be let in, and then ride a manual elevator to the white concrete space where he works on the fifth floor. Bradley was part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial and was recently featured in two solo shows. I visited the thirty-five-year-old artist to talk about his evolving process as a painter.

Photograph by Michael Nevin.

This building is called the Pencil Factory. When you go outside, there are these giant pencils on the wall. It’s got a lot of light, and it’s quiet and big enough. You can have six or seven paintings up at the same time and don’t have to shift them around.

I don’t go into painting with any kind of plan. The ones I am happiest with I have no idea how I arrived at. The best ones are always a real surprise. For most of the paintings I use unprimed canvas and oil paint. I like drawing when the canvas is on the floor, and then I’ll pin it up and see what it looks like on the wall. Sometimes, I turn it over and work on the other side. The nature of the oil paint is that it kind of bleeds through the canvas so you have some sort of residual marks seeping through from the other side and influencing the composition.

Photograph by Michael Nevin.

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