Gary Schwartz, Coney Island Dreams, acrylic on canvas.
Gary Schwartz: Coney Island and Beyond
July 21–September 29, 2019
Opening Reception July 21, 2019, 1–3 PM
I grew up in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York in the 1960s and 1970s, where my father was the assistant manager of Nathan’s Famous hotdog emporium. Although on the verge of massive urban decay, the neighborhood still employed a barker or two on the once honky-tonk midway called “Bowery Street.” By 1964, the “Steeplechase” section of the amusement park closed its leering clown-faced entrance, and the once breathtaking parachute jump ride became a skeletal reminder of a bygone era. In the 1980s, the aroma of cotton candy and Turkish Taffy began to give way to borscht and other Russian delicacies.
Strongly influenced by the social realist painters of the 1930s, particularly Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh, I have created a visual memoir of a particular era in a particular setting, but a deeply personal place. My childhood “village”, just across the Stillwell Avenue train tracks was noisy (especially in summer), I could actually hear the screams of “Cyclone” riders from my bedroom window. At times it was scary, dark, brooding, smelly, and foreboding, but always exciting, colorful, magical, mysterious, and deeply sensual.
I work primarily from my own digital photography, projecting hard copy Photoshop prints onto un-stretched canvas tacked to the studio wall, and then I trace the projected image. The paintings are done mostly in acrylic and some in oil and ink. In addition to painting Coney Island imagery, this series also includes painted scenes from my world travels from midtown Manhattan to Moscow, plus a few nostalgia pieces.
I currently teach visual arts to high school students at York Preparatory School on the upper west side of Manhattan. I am excited to join the Visual Art Center of NJ this July and August teaching three courses in the teen summer art camp.