Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chelsea Art and Lunch (NYC)

When I was growing up in Manhattan, the art galleries were down in SoHo, but escalating rents have forced artists to relocate to Chelsea in the West 20’s. The old warehouses convert well into gallery space. It’s an up and coming neighborhood featuring cutting edge art and new talent. It’s a kid friendly place to visit too.

Red Flagg Gallery just opened in 2009 and is run by artists. It’s sister to the Coleman Burke Gallery in Brunswick, Maine. Red Flagg is housed in an enormous warehouse with several other galleries attached by a long interior corridor. My kids loved the cool space. It was the perfect place to visit on a rainy Saturday (Red Flagg is only open Fridays & Saturday 10-6.)

Photo of Mark Wethli by Cassie Jones

Mark Wethli’s paintings are currently on display until May 16th. Mark is an art professor at Bowdoin College and is a good friend of mine. His work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum, The Farnsworth Museum, The Portland Museum and in other collections. He’s been part of the Whitney Biennial.

Mark’s exhibit is a series of geometric paintings on recycled work table tops. My 14-year-old son was especially intrigued by how colors tricked the eye into creating balance.

The surfaces are so full of texture that the paintings feel more like sculpture. Mark’s work looks much better in person than in these 2D images. His compositions extend into the gallery space, working off the rough walls.

Witchcraft Café looked like a good place for tea in the warehouse corridor. I loved the funky décor.

We met friends for lunch at the Empire Diner a few blocks downtown on 10th Avenue. It’s a classic retro-diner with updated food. The sweet potato fries sprinkled with brown sugar were delicious. You can also order club sandwiches and burgers. The Empire Diner is meant to have the best root beer float in Manhattan. My daughter loved it. The diner is small and busy so be prepared to wait although the tables cycle quickly.

My old school friend knew Empire Diner was authentic based on how rude they were on the phone. They do not accept reservations, but once we were seated the service was excellent. When the kids knocked over the root beer float, the waitress came running with a refill and napkins after just hearing the noise. Definitely kid friendly. The servings were large and the food was good. It was a genuine NYC experience, including the half hour wait for the one six-top table.

I’m back in NYC this week for the kids’ spring vacation, staying with my parents. My husband is home teaching in Maine. Sadly school and Bowdoin College vacations don’t overlap. We’ll be checking out the parks, museums, restaurants and theater. I’m also doing research for a novel. Fun but busy week!

Blog Watch: Two posts today. Read separate post below with a special focus on Book Blogs.

Mark Wethli's paintings were repoduced with the artist's permission.


Elizabeth said...

Rumor has it that the Empire Diner is threatened by increasing rents.
Hope this isn't true since it is quite a landmark and, as your post confirmed, children, visitors and the natives ALL enjoy it.
It is also dog friendly....
Was most impressed with the paintings you featured.

Laura Doyle said...

I'm rather curious about Mark Wethli's work on tabletops. The roughness seems to add to the balance as well as the color. Thanks for taking us along on your tour!

TBM said...

"My old school friend knew Empire Diner was authentic based on how rude they were on the phone."


Love the art (of course)!

Have a wonderful Spring Break. Now I'm hungry for some sweet potato fries.

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

Yes, those warehouses do convert well into loads of open gallery space. Looks like the forced relocation is working.

That actually is the reason my parents moved our gallery from the city center of Nairobi - the landlords kept raising the rent. They moved it to our 100 year old ranch and converted half of it into the gallery and built an open-air museum adjacent to it; and later an artists residence. Growing up in the gallery was fun.

Mark Wethli's work is captivating. It is earthy and I love the colors in the pieces you picked today - Earth Day.

You make me want to visit NYC again soon. All three of our children were born there. I especially miss the rude honesty, in your face. Here in the south you get the two-sides-of-the-mouth treatment.


Mama Shujaa.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Never been to NYC but I can truly say when I do make it to the big apple, I will eat at the Empire Dinner. The art work you have posted by Mark Wethli is beautiful!
Have a great spring break!

Cid said...

Great travel post for those of us who can't get away. Love all your kid-friendly suggestions, I have never been brave enough to take mine to an art gallery.

A Cuban In London said...

Nice to see genuine art and a genuine gallery, too! As someone who, until recently, was part of a cultrual centre here in London and saw it go down completely I always greet the creation of new spaces for both visual and performing arts encouraging. Indeed, Mark's paintings colours play tricks with one's eyes. I loved the third one top to bottom. I also loved the first photo, such a vast space!

The little cafe in the gallery looks so cosy! Wooden floor! My God, I love wooden floors!

Many thanks for another fantastic post.

Greetings from London.

marc aurel said...

I've never left you a comment, but I love lurking at your blog. I sent you a meme and invite you to fill it in and send it on its way.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Enjoyed this post! And I know you will enjoy NYC and your family.

Dave King said...

Interesting post. I agree about the textures giving an impression of sculpture.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Your blog makes me feel the need for a roadtrip. Then again, I'm back in the middle of revisions, so any excuse to get away from them would be welcome. But I love roadtrips. Enjoy the city!

Donna said...

I hope you're having a great week with your kids in the city!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Road trips are the best. I just got back from Indiana. It was wonderful.

Love the art!

Rosaria Williams said...

Great post and introduction to an artist I didn't know.
Also, thanks for the Bookblog directory.

David Cranmer said...

I love art and the cool ambiance shines through in these photos. I would love to visit.

Mary Ellen said...

I'm terribly jealous, but I hope you have a wonderful time. After a long, difficult winter, you deserve every break you can get!

Rose said...

Enjoy your spring break in NYC, Sarah! I hope the snow in Maine has finally melted.
I always enjoy taking these tours with you. I have never been to New York City, but I'm sure when I do go, it will be to all the usual tourist attractions. It would be fun to see some of the more interesting places that you visit here.

Bee said...

Art and food: definitely amongst the best of what NYC has to offer. Thanks for giving us this tasty glimpse.

Elizabeth had a picture up of Empire Diner, too. Just coincidence? I have a new Ina Garten cookbook that has a recipe for those sweet potato fries. I will report back on my results!

Hope you've enjoyed your break in the city. We got back to England at the beginning of the week . . . and are still feeling pretty tired.

Shauna said...

Hope you are having a super weekend! ♥ HUGS ♥

Sarah Laurence said...

All, how wonderful to come home to all your comments! They totally perked me up. Thank you! Lots of blog visits and catching up to do.

Elizabeth, that would be too sad to see yet another NYC institution fall victim to escalating rent. I did notice that outside seating – on a sunny day perfect for dogs too. Bee says you blogged about the diner this week too – how fun! I loved your outside shot - it was raining to hard to take one myself. The paintings are even better in person. It would be fun to connect Robert and Mark.

Starlene, interesting point. The texture did work with the composition.

JAPRA, I’m already missing those sweet potato fries. Share the recipe if you figure it out. Bee says she has a recipe. I thought Mark’s paintings would appeal to you.

MS, that’s sad that Nairobi suffers the rent issue too. I do like the sound of their open air museum and it would was probably a nicer site for a child than Nairobi. You must have had a magical childhood. I never thought of the Earth Day colors – how right you are. I’m not crazy about NYC rudeness, but I’m used to it.

Tracy, the Empire Diner is indeed enjoyed by tourists and locals alike as Elizabeth confirms. Thanks; it was a great break.

Cid, blogs are perfect for armchair travel. Two kids in a gallery is manageable, and it certainly gets easier as they get older.

ACIL, that image was taken by Mark. I mixed in my lesser quality images (poor lighting that rainy day) to give a sense of the art in the gallery space as I saw it. I love wooden floors too.

Marc, welcome to my blog! I’ll come visit, but I’m not a memer.

Mimi, thanks we did.

Dave, texture does add another dimension.

Stacy, good luck with your revisions.

Donna, thanks it was a great week.

CM, glad you had a nice trip too.

Lakeviewer, nice to make those connections.

David, you definitely should visit NYC some time.

ME, it was very welcome having spring in NYC. Can’t complain about the Maine weather today!

Rose, the snow mounds have melted down to small clumps and the grass is green now. The fun thing about NYC is there is always something new to see.

Bee, Welcome back! You were well missed. Jet lag is never fun. I didn’t see Elizabeth this visit, but I must have been in her neighborhood. It was fun seeing her Empire Diner photo. Thanks for the shout out. Definitely let me know about those sweet potato fries.

Shauna, thanks we did!

Jan said...

Really great reading all this.
And the snaps too.
Some lovely paintings...