Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Window On Elizabeth Street | Peter Sis

When I am drawing pictures for a book about Prague or Tibet, for weeks or months at a time it is nice to look outside and see the real world. The models and junkies and kids from the Catholic school across the street. The dogs - one of them has a set of wheels instead of hind legs - who romp by.

What books and art did I do in this studio? Starry Messenger, Galileo Galilei, Madlenka, Tibet, The Wall. Every time transferring myself to a faraway place. Except for the character of Madlenka, who lives on a block just like this one. I have been here ever since our son Matej was born, and he is fourteen and big now.

What did I see from my window? The World Trade Center for sure - for the last time on the afternoon of September tenth. Marching processions and bands with statues of St. Anthony or St. Gennaro, lots of car crashes because of a silly stop sign on Elisabeth St., lots of bums, transvestites and panhandlers from the Bowery, the next street to the east. The transformation of a bodega, a hardware store and a shoemaker into boutiques and more boutiques. Dustin Hoffman shopping, the owner of the Connecticut Muffin café shot to death, the old italian lady sitting on her chair outside of the Albanian butcher place. Martin Scorcese grew up and slept on the fire escape in that same building. Italian home cooking on the corner of Prince and Elizabeth streets. After years of emptiness, the greasy spoon just outside my kitchen became a trendy café, the Café Habana. Lenny Kravitz shot one of his rock videos there.

The condo buildings are growing like mushrooms, and old wrinkly artists of the past are disappearing. The New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery one block away means a constant flow of tourists, who are happily shopping because the dollar is so low. 

Jim Jarmusch lives across the street, but I haven’t seen him in a long time. So maybe he moved? Or maybe he is making another film in Finland?

These old tenement buildings, still full of people from Asia, have bare and dim-lit kitchens I can see into. But there are hipsters too. Models. Japanese models. People who look like characters out of Pokemon. Mafia guys in Ray’s Pizza. 

Robert Plant in the Café Gitane. David Bowie in the Brazilian restaurant. The pigment store under my studio became a handbag boutique. I will have to draw with markers now….