Greenpoint Open Studios 2019: Remaining Authentic Through Connection

June 12, 2019

This past weekend was Greenpoint Open Studios and I walked around with some members of my local art community meetup group.  Last year was the first time I visited and while it was sweltering (especially while climbing multiple flights of stairs), there were some memorable artists I knew I wanted to visit again. When I've toured other open studios in different neighborhoods (Bushwick, Dumbo), it felt more self-contained than in Greenpoint. The studios and galleries in those neighborhoods were within a block or two of one another, or a number of studios within one building. For Greenpoint Open Studios, it feels more like a scavenger hunt: you arrive at what you thought was an abandoned factory, only to walk three flights and discover an artist you otherwise wouldn't have known existed. This is mostly due to the rising costs of waterfront real estate making it more difficult for artists to afford studio space in one of the last areas of North Brooklyn that feels like a neighborhood. With other large-scale community events shutting down, Greenpoint Open Studios remains a rare opportunity for a community to gather together and celebrate the unique culture that can otherwise feel hidden from view. Overall, touring Greenpoint Open Studios requires a commitment (albeit a rewarding one), and this past Saturday myself and my crew toured three separate spaces. Below are some artists who caught my eye for the first time and are familiar favorites:
 

276 Greenpoint Ave (Brooklyn Art Studios)

 

Leonard Reibstein 

As Reibstein enthusiastically talked to us as we grabbed cold sodas from the nearby bin, his paintings explore toxic masculinity by showcasing mythological creatures suffering from ailments such as having testicles on the bit too large side. I liked this painting based on it's very feminine nature in the use of pink and the voluptuous body (evidently it's a centaur). My friend Nadya in the group said that it was an observation about how most instances of toxic masculinity are actually insecurities over feminine tendencies.  

 

Claire McConaughy

McConaughy has officially changed my view on the possibilities of landscapes. I've been very frustrated doing landscapes because they have felt tedious and somewhat dated. However, after seeing her work, it convinced me that landscapes can still feel very modern, with her wondrous blends of cool and warm colors and the sheer, awe-inspiring size of them.

 

61 Greenpoint Ave (Old Pencil Factory)

 

Paul Richard

 

Paul Richard is a local artist that I will say has done a great job of marketing himself. You'll recognize his work on various sidewalks throughout North Brooklyn and even walking off the East River Ferry you'll see a sign about how Greenpoint is the home of Paul Richard. I went to his studio for the first time last year and was too intimidated by his work and persona. Maybe next year, thinking third time's a charm, I'll actually work up the nerve to chat with him. 

 

Colleen Blackard

 

 

Stupid talented, stupid beautiful work. Blackard's drawings, paintings and work are an ethereal interpretation of nature and her work dumbfounded me. She should be more well-known than she is. 

 

37 Greenpoint Ave (Old Pencil Factory)

 

Steve Wasterval 

 Wasternal is a staple in the Brooklyn scene with his infamous tiny paintings and canvases he hides throughout the neighborhood and asks his Instagram followers to find. I visited his studio last year and fell in love with his clear viewpoint about the current state of the neighborhood. 

 

Lucea Spinelli 

 Spinelli was featured in the SVA MFA showcase for photography. What was impressive to me was her use of video animation that she showed in the space that made the dancing light in her photographs come to life. 

 

Juan Miguel Marin 

 

 

Marin is a real cool guy. His studio is shared with set of drums, a wall of books, and Tom Tom Mag.  He mostly talked about how Pencil Factory studios have changed over the years. For example, a lot of bands used to practice there, including The Walkmen. Now for every artist studio there are ten office spaces for legit businesses. 

 

The neighborhood of Greenpoint feels like it's in a constant struggle between it's authentic roots (artists, Polish restaurants, that guy who plays "In the Air Tonight" from his car at all hours) and the fate of other Brooklyn neighborhoods (luxury high rises, $8 tacos, Brooklyn Expo Center). The only thing seeming to save it is that it's just out of reach to be convenient enough for weekend tourists, and it's all thanks to the G train. We hate you, but we love you too. But in all seriousness, this is a critical time for local NY neighborhoods to connect and preserve what makes the local culture so unique. My hope is that Greenpoint Open Studios, and the art community within, continues to remain and connect with its residents. 

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