Artist's Notebook

Quick study: The quiet city

On Canal Street: Not much traffic and plenty of storefronts are for rent. (Images: Sharon Butler)

Contributed by Sharon Butler / How’s everyone doing out there? The streets of New York have calmed down in the past few weeks, with far fewer sirens, although the neighbors still hang out the windows to make a racket at 7pm, celebrating the quietly heroic medical personnel and other essential workers. Governor Cuomo announced that the lockdown will continue through June 13, or possibly longer, depending. Alternate side parking is in effect this week in order to run the street sweepers and tidy up a bit. I’ve gathered articles from around the internet, including a few notable posts from the blogsphere, accompanied by some images I snapped on my ride to the studio. The building is so quiet, I feel as though I’m the only one here. And for once there’s plenty of parking in DUMBO.

At Bloomberg, Noah Smith suggests that the golden age of academia, when MFA programs have supported artists at all levels of their careers, may be over. �[I]f universities were on shaky ground before coronavirus, they will be crushed by this pandemic and the resultant depression. The first blow will come from even deeper cuts in state funding. With tax revenues in free fall, states are already running huge budget deficits while their borrowing ability is limited. Spending will surely be cut. If the 2008 crisis is any indication, cuts to higher education spending will not be quickly restored even when recovery begins. Tuition also will be crushed. The pandemic itself is already depressing enrollment because students don�t know when classes will be reopened. But even when that threat is gone, mass unemployment will reduce the ability of many American households to pay steep college prices�.� Read more.

On the corner of Jay and Water Streets in DUMBO. The food trucks are gone. (Image: Sharon Butler)

Living on the Upper West Side across the park, I like to take a stroll every now and then to visit the tomato plants at the Guggenheim. Yes, they are growing. In the NY Times this week, Elizabeth Harris reports on the guy who tends the plants while the rest of the museum is on lockdown. �David Litvin, an indoor crop specialist, tends the plants in a temporarily shuttered exhibition, Countryside, The Future. He moved to New York from Tel Aviv in February, along with his wife, Stefanie, and their Dutch shepherd, Ester, with a plan to stay six months harvesting the Guggenheim tomatoes that are growing in a greenhouse outside. He was going to see the city, too.� Read more.

Should you stay in New York? Or if you left, should you come back? In the NY Times, Mary T. Bassett, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard, says it�s a bad idea for people to stay in their country houses indefinitely. �First, Covid-19 will be with us for some time. It has reached all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has reached the White House. It sped to virtually every country in a few short months. It could just as well make inroads in the vacation communities and remote outposts where the wealthy have sought refuge. Next, when the affluent seek separate communities, it is not good for democracy or, in the long run, society�s stability. The way to ensure both is instead to invest in affordable housing and safer workplaces.� Read more.

At New York Magazine, Jerry Saltz pens �My Appetite,� a courageous tell-all essay about his first trip to a museum, his mother�s suicide, his bad grades in high school, his troublemaking stepbrothers, his first apartment, his issues with food, and, of course, his life with Roberta. Not surprisingly, whether in the city or in their Connecticut rental, they spend most of their time writing. Read more.

Piles of household debris on the sidewalk are common. I”m not sure if people are breaking their leases from afar or have died….or what. (Image:Sharon Butler)

Blogs report:

If you want to know how other artists are coping, check out Art Spiel, a Brooklyn-based, artist-run platform for contemporary art. Artists are reporting on their new routines, from teaching online to time in the studio. Paul Behnke, Leslie Kerby, Ellen Hackl Fagan, Barbara Friedman, and Julian Kreimer are among the artists included. Read more.

Painters on Painting just kicked off an �Art in Isolation� series with an email from Helen O�Leary. �Are ye feral yet? We definitely are,� Helen writes. �This morning Dan had a moment of realization that he should clean himself up for a Zoom call. I told him he was grand, as indeed, to my eyes all of this informality is just rounding the corporate corners off of everyone, and he, for a moment, believed me. He opened photo booth, and said, Jesus, no, I have to clean myself up, and has gone now on a long odyssey of a search for an extension cord so he can shave near a mirror and find a non-crumpled shirt�.� Read more.

Talking Pictures blog continues their excellent �The Collector� series in which artists talk about one piece of work they own. This edition features a post from Bob Seng and Lisa Hein about The Graveyard, a Kerry Law painting that they got during Bushwick Open Studios long before death counts and images of mass burials were part of our daily lives. Read more. is thinking about salt and pepper shakers. And Charles Sheeler. �I am just cruising along through the utterly riveting, hilarious, and outrageous and insightful interview the American Art dealer Edith Gregor Halpert did for the Archives of American Art, when she just offhandedly mentions Charles Sheeler is the one who invented putting the S and P on the top of salt and pepper shakers??� Read more.

Joanne Mattera Art Blog has curated an expansive two-part exhibition called �Art in the Time of Pandemic� that focuses on artists in their studios. “Life for artists has been more difficult than usual, sheltering in place exacerbated by fear of disease and severe loss of income, magnified by the deathly horror of the nightly news (all made worse, I scarcely need to note, by a woefully inept president). Still we try to make the best of it.”  Read more.

Stay tuned for some news about NADA Art Fair, which launches on May 20.

On Houston Street: Stay Safe, New York. (Image: Sharon Butler)

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Ideas and influences: Mike Cloud
Rainy day in New York

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