From the Pencil Factory to the Fowler Arts Collective to tons of individual artist studios, the Northside Art Festival‘s Open Spaces proved that Greenpoint remains a calmer, more meditative home for artists in comparison with the bustling hipster streets of Williamsburg. While wandering around, I didn’t get the sense that I was taking in the most edgy, avant-garde art being made in New York, but I was still able to locate studios where amusing, wacky and beautiful art is created.
From what I could see, the Greenpoint studios did not get as much traffic as their neighbors in Williamsburg. Inside the cluttered studios, there was an average of one or two other visitors with me. So in case you didn’t make it up to Greenpoint, here are a few of the studios and art within them that I found the most notable.
Perhaps the cutest art of the day was Rossa Cole’s sculptures of birds made out of six-pack rings, netting and other garbage materials that are usually seen heartbreakingly wrapped around sea birds in depressing news photographs. A resident of the Pencil Factory at 61 Greenpoint Avenue, Cole painstakingly creates these adorable sculptures, creating a birth certificate for and naming each one. He then photographs them, which is, for Cole, the moment when they become art. Since plastic six-pack rings are not necessarily the best material for conservation, Cole considers the photographs the actual art pieces; the sculptures will begin to deteriorate in about three years.
In our conversation, Cole mentioned that he had just been at the beach and seen a duck with wire wrapped around its beak. The image disturbed but resonated with him, since it represents exactly the environmental issues he is dealing with in his work.
Another Greenpoint artist who both works in the Pencil Factory and with images of animals is Jackie Hoving, whose use of fragmented, patterned collage and spray paint on paper stood out against the often muted artwork in some of the nearby Greenpoint studios. Walking through her studio, she had a bunch of similar pieces on the wall but “Fox Trap” with its splotchy, almost violent use of color immediately caught my eye.
The creepiest art event I attended all day was undoubtedly Crimes of the Future, an exhibition of several local artists who took over an old medical office at 1002 Manhattan Avenue. Many of them submitted work commenting on the state of the abandoned office, which was filled with old doctor’s tables, scales and other medical equipment and nearly resembled a horror movie set. Alexa Hoyer’s “The Nurse” added a strange, almost ghostly presence to the office.
Bridget Batch’s photographs from her Embodiments series also stood out in the slightly disturbing and sort of smelly office space. With haunted, opaque images of people on top of various landscapes, from New York City to a rural field, Batch’s series reflected the eerie location of Crimes of the Future.
My last stop of the day was also possibly my favorite. Emily Noelle Lambert’s bright canvases and sculptures added some much-needed color, particularly after checking out of 1002 Manhattan Avenue. Preparing for an upcoming exhibition in September, Lambert is beginning to work on a more monumental scale, with canvases that stretch almost to the top of her studio walls. She will end up creating or finishing most of the work in the gallery space, since her small Greenpoint studio does not have high enough ceilings or wide enough walls to fit the canvases and sculptures, which will extend to about 18 feet.
The sculptures-in-progress that Lambert was working on were a fascinating mix of found materials, from pieces that came from her brother in Pittsburgh to scraps left over from The Great Googa Mooga Festival in Prospect Park a few weeks ago. Lambert said the sculptures are related to her paintings, and looking at both in the studio, I could see how the sculptures reflected her paintings’ free forms and wild color.
Northside Open Spaces took place on June 17 as part of the weekend-long Northside Art Festival.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.