Saturday, February 20, 2010

Harlem Provides Plenty of Visual Delights

Last October, artist George Wittenberg explored Harlem, taking his long-time friends William and Gail (he's an architect and she's a community activist) up on an offer to visit. "They had been encouraging me to come and stay for some time." Wittenberg, who is well-known for his "post card" art took to the streets of Harlem as he has done in fabulous places all over the world.

"I worked creating18 new postcard paintings...from historic Jewish Temples now churches to overhead steel railroad trestles to the Malcomb X Market," George explains. "We hope to have a local show of the work at The Studio Museum of Harlem, a museum dedicated to works of Harlem, and right across the street form President Clinton's Harlem office. (He'll be invited!) I learned a lot about the history and beauty of the place.

"Harlem was a Dutch settlement on the isle of Manhatten in the 18th century. It has gone through several waves of immigration and settlements from that time forward. Since the the early 20th century the African Americans have occupied the area, moving in after the Jewish immigration of 19th - early 20th century moved on. And as we all know, President Clinton helped put the modern and changing (again) Harlem on the map by moving his office there on 125th Street.

"Our friend's apartment is on St Nickolas Ave. where this meandering avenue intersects with 124th street. For non New York City people, the upper edge of Central Park is 110th street. From there along the Hudson river by Columbia and NY City College campuses, up to the George Washington Bridge and over to the Harlem River and back down to the Park's northern edge is Harlem. I concentrated my efforts on the area in the NW section of that larger territory. When you have to walk and set up equipment and watch your time - you limit your area. And this area seemed to be the area of the most interesting historic buildings - according to the AIA Guide to NYC. I did the map research, scheduled my days and ventured out.

"I began either in ink line or pencil sketch then applied watercolor paint. Sometimes I left them unfinished - just getting the color contrasts down - and waiting until later to finish. I always took a picture so that I could refer to the scene later in the studio."

(c) 2009 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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