Here I Am: Bushwick Now and Then
The B&H Event Space (420 9th Ave., Manhattan)
When Meryl Meisler began teaching art in Bushwick in December 1981, she wondered, “Was the other art teacher killed?” Meisler explains, “Bushwick resembled a ghost town war zone. Scorched and seemingly forgotten since the ’77 blackout, Bushwick hit the skids. To me, Bushwick’s natural light was beautiful; kids were kids, vacant buildings whispered: Here I am, take my picture before I collapse. Using a plastic point and shoot and color slide film, I photographed walking from subway to school, through classroom windows and back again. The images, many forgotten in boxes for nearly 30 years, are quick sketches of the neighborhood’s people and places during a disparate decade. Revisiting to photograph Bushwick today, I feel like Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey coming home to Pottersville in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ There’s been a paradigm shift. Burnt out Bushwick has become fertile ground for community activism and the arts.”
30 years later, the neighborhood is making its comeback, and Meryl Meisler’s photographs of Bushwick from the 1980s are the most extensive known documentation of the neighborhood during that period. Nowadays, Meryl’s goal is to walk and photograph every street in Bushwick- subliminally and overtly finding the connecting detail between the past and the present.
The “Here I Am: Bushwick Now & Then” presentation will include an overview of Bushwick history- before and after the “Fire Wars” and insight to the artists and galleries moving in critical mass into the neighborhood. She will cover specific topics including: Discovering the Vivian Maier in each of us, documenting personal journeys and learning from them, approaching strangers in questionable situations with whom you wish to photograph, collaborating with interdisciplinary cross cultural individuals and groups. Attendees can expect to walk away from the presentation with insight to the importance of patience and perspective, the power of the human spirit to overcome obstacles and the role of photographers in the everyday annals of history in the making. They will get a preview and invitation to Meisler’s exhibition opening June 1, 2012 at The Living Gallery, Bushwick’s newest gallery space. The exhibit will be the site of numerous interdisciplinary arts events (readings, music, dance) throughout the month of June.