Happy Summer (almost) Coney Island Art Walls

Nina Chabel Anbney
John Ahearn

I don’t know why but I’ve under visited Coney Island in the past few years. To remedy the situation the other Sunday we woke up and headed straight to the beach during a late Spring heatwave that I think is  a harbinger of a humid Summer season to come.

The beach was packed in that great, characters-of -New-York way. I forgot to bring my sketchbook instead reading the Sunday paper in the sand.

I was particularly energized by the Coney Island Art Walls for the season, presenting a diverse set of local artists. Nina Chanel Abney’s work is a riveting set of political abstraction and figuration. She is one to watch in contemporary art.

Here’s to more Coney Island for the season to come.

To do: Beach lounge and dip your feet into the water! Luna Park. People watch. Coney Island Art walls, walk the boardwalk and peer. Weekend fireworks and Spinners games are next on my list.

Eat: Coney Island Brewery. Hot dogs, duh.

Carmen Herrera at the Whitney


Being twenty nine so far has been weird, wonderful, and difficult. Being a young woman is a similar mix. And not to mention that trying to find creative meaning and practice in life–I don’t equate that with a creative job, I follow Virginia Wolf’s Room of One Own’s guide to always having your own–is also similarly a trifecta of deliciously hard.

In thinking about the struggle of women for creative recognition, this fall I discovered Carmen Herrera through her first major exhibit in more than two decades at The Whitney. She’s 100 years old and finally getting a retrospective! That fact alone made me smile. Just thinking about her tough attitude on art makes me feel like it’s easier to get anything done in life, creative or not. It’s the kind of attitude I want for 2017.

Herrera is a Cuban American artist, a part of the history of abstract expressionism in the 20th century and yet she’ve never quite got her due like this, never had her rightful time the sun. She didn’t even sell her first painting until 89,  if you can believe it. She was born in Cuba, moved to New York and Paris, and found her voice in the early 1950’s as other more well known male abstract expressionists were taking the scene.

Her minimalist, arresting painting described as “an art of crisp, clear straight lines, of pure color and pure shape. Her paintings are cut to their bare minimum, but it would be wrong to describe them as sparse or restrained. Their solid colors are arranged so that they teem with energy, whether effervescent


I feel as though this story, her work of strong, straight lines composed with bright and visually powerful colors, can resonate with anyone, especially this year, especially with women who strive for things outside themselves.
Her exhibit is up through January 9th, a good way to ring in the New Year.

The Cats of Japanese Illustrator Aiko Fukawa

Japan appeared to me to be a country full of illustrations, in every form, on everything. From restaurant menus, signs, subway advertisements to the luggage pick up at the airport, it seemed that its a country entirely adorned with characters, color, and illustrative touches.

Because for this I picked up a few   many printed things—from free pamphlets in the subway system to stickers at department stores dedicated to paper goods– just to savor the colorful illustrations.

Since then I’ve been enamored with Aiko Fukawa’s playful illustrated cats after buying a packet of her stickers (naturally.)

Aiko is a graduate of Tokyo University of Arts and a designer of paper goods and stationary. You can buy many of her designs at Uguisu, an online store dedicated to all the wonderful Japanese paper goods that I loved while in Tokyo.

Follow her on Instagram and Tumblr, too.

Claudia Pearson’s Illustration in Fodor’s Brooklyn Guide


I picked up the new Fodor’s travel guide to Brooklyn after spotting it at a few local bookstores in late September around, naturally, Brooklyn.

Turns out, it’s the first Fodor’s guide to Brooklyn. A much debated borough as of late for all sorts of important but complicated reasons–the guidebook mentions gentrification in albeit a brief section in the beginning–it is still strangely pleasant to have a travel guide to somewhere you already live, even if things close and change faster than I can count.

Luckily the guide has recommendations and tid-bits about the farther into Brooklyn neighborhoods of Kensington, Midwood, and Ditmas Park which happen to be where I live (in the intersection of them all.) Still, there is much to the borough I’d want to add, especially even more of those neighborhoods and places off the beaten path from most new denizens. Perhaps the next edition can expand even more into far reaches of the borough.

But illustrations in the guide were a big selling point for me. I’m a sucker for illustrated New York City and all the illustrations, including my favorite the chapter neighborhood maps, were created by a local illustrator Claudia Pearson.

Pearson made a quick video tutorial about her process for creating illustrated neighborhood maps which is super helpful for all the self-taught artists and drawers like me:

Pearson is known not only for local illustrations but also drawings of food. She sells most weekends at the Brooklyn Flea. I proudly haul my gym clothing around in her tote.

I particularly like the work she’s down for Sustainable NYC and Grow NYC.



Chantal Joffe at The Jewish Museum


Installation view of the exhibition Using Walls, Floors, and Ceilings: Chantal Joffe. The Jewish Museum, NY. Photo by: David Heald.

A few weeks ago when I was at the Jewish Museum’s pay-what-you-wish Thursday night hours,  I  was struck by a lobby corner exhibit of portraits done in a bold, textured style though each was quite small. They reminded me of Alice Neel or Lucian Freud.  All of the portraits were of women.

Turns out the exhibit is part of the Jewish museum’s Using Floors, Walls, and Ceilings series that presents contemporary artists on the walls of the museum’s lobby.

Golda Meir

The artist for the current exhibit, on view until Oct. 2015, is London-based painter Chantal Joffe. Each of the paintings is a portrait of a 20th Century Jewish woman—such as Diane Arbus,  Gertrude A. Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Susan Sontag, and Hannah Arendt—focusing on their influence on art, literature, politics. and culture. Joffee studied for months before painting, accumulating research from their lives.

I was instantly enamored with the style and scope of Joffe’s work, reading more about her career and work first in the gift shop and then online. Joffe is known for her use of photography as an starting point, painting very large and alternately small canvases, and of course for painting almost only women.

On the process of painting her subjects, Joffe describes the women she has chosen:

“My early paintings used pornographic imagery, partly because I was interested in the politics surrounding pornography, but also because I wanted to paint nudes, and through pornography I had an endless supply of images of naked women. At the time I used to think I was bringing these women back to life. The photograph had killed their soul, and they died when the magazine was discarded. I saw my paintings as resurrecting them.

Since having a child, my paintings are more personal. I wanted to convey some of that physical intensity that comes with having a baby. The anxiety and emotions are so visceral.”




Favorites from the Renegade Craft Fair

A few weekends back my friend Michelle and I went to the Renegade Craft Fair Pop-Up at East River State Park. I didn’t pick up anything that day but I love taking notes for the future. Here are a few of my favorite finds.

Wind Born from Cape Cod

As a Massachusetts native, these tugged at the old heart strings. I liked the block printing on a few of the pocket sized notebooks. I love a simple, kraft paper styled notebook too. Better yet, they’re made from old typewriter paper.

Ness Lee, Illustrator from New York City. 

I really dig Ness Lee’s style, her line work and fluid shapes. They’re also smart and interesting visualizing, hinting at broader meaning of place and identity.



Carefree Cacti by Sah Rah 

I kill almost every plant I own at one point or another which is exactly why I want an entire windowsill full of Sah Rah’s knitted catci in terra cotta plants. No water needed!