Since Superstorm Sandy struck Coney Island, the recovery of the area has been a mixed bag. One the one hand, the boardwalk has never been more popular, inviting a glut of tourists and new businesses to the area. On the flip side, many of these businesses are corporate in nature, sapping authenticity from the historic site in hopes to capitalize on all the increased foot traffic. The Epoch Times is reporting that the folks running the custom t-shirt shop Brooklyn Rock hope to win the hearts of Brooklyn locals and not their disdain.
Brooklyn Rock, which is located along a renovated strip of businesses on Stillwell Avenue, sells used books, records and other homespun items, and features its bright and colorful t-shirts as the main draw. Chris Smith, a designer at the store, told the Epoch Times that all the shirts are made with cotton grown in the United States.
“I’m using American stuff because I know I’m hurting the least amount of people and I’m benefiting the most amount of people in my environment. And they’re good product. They last a long time,” Smith told the Epoch Times.
The shirts, which feature clever messages like, “Brooklyn: Entertaining Manhattan since 1646,” are a bit pricey at $24, which Smith admitted has surprised customers.
“People are so used to buying at discount stores that they’re a little shocked at the price sometimes,” Smith said.
Still, the shirts and the store are a cool place. I recently walked in there and observed the artists in the back crafting the shirts, creating a relaxed and artistic atmosphere. It was a welcome respite from the blaring music and screaming kids found running around the area. My friends and I also had fun browsing the diverse and eclectic selection of cheap books and records. It is worth ducking into and exploring when you have had your fill of roller coasters and hot-dogs.
Takeshi Yamada, a taxidermist and one of Coney Island’s more interesting local artists, is getting a huge spotlight as he is set to star in AMC’s new competitive taxidermy show, Immortalized.
Chances are you were as confused reading those sentences as I was writing them, but yes, competitive taxidermy is apparently a thing. Well, if it wasn’t a thing, it is now thanks to AMC’s outside the box reality programming.
It should be interesting to follow the exploits of Takeshi Yamada (featured above), the local Coney Island freak-show taxidermist who takes special pride in assembling fake creatures like his disturbing two-headed baby corpses, (shudder…)
The talented Yamada works an incredible 16 hours a day and has been described as a “rogue taxidermist.” There is something beautiful and disturbing around the 50-second mark in the video above when Yamada is combing the Coney Island creek in his magical-steam-punk outfit for dead things to turn into fresh art.
Bensonhurst (or Gravesend)-born creative legend, Maurice Sendak passed away earlier this year. The art and literary world were abuzz with recollections of Sendak’s humility and great talent. One such writer, albeit unintentionally, went a step further.
Celia Blue Johnson and her young family were looking to escape a lead paint-filled apartment in Park Slope and moved to a little place on Bensonhurst’s residential streets, just a few blocks away from Sendak’s childhood home at 1717 West Sixth Street.
Jennifer Maravillas of San Francisco has come to New York to continue her creative cartography quest. The artist has already achieved critical acclaim in a variety of arts-based publications, like Juxtapoz and Design Milk for her industrious efforts.
Her work centers on creating colorful, detail specific maps of urban environments. In Brooklyn, her plan is to “[Create a map] of Brooklyn in found paper.”
On her journey, she spent time in near the N line and blogged about her experiences there:
“The N line through Bensonhurst is surrounded by a series of privately owned gardens. It was here that I met Vinny, the proud owner of a garden that looks almost wild. Every single day since his good wife died of breast cancer a number of years ago he has worked his land. He asked if I had a boyfriend, and warned that some men can be very bad. I ate good portions of his arugula and mint, both delicious and refreshing in the heat. His garden is at about 62nd and 12th.
“I’ve been preparing my entire life for the single scoop of half coffee half chocolate (a Clio Goodman favorite) at Caffe Italia. My table partner, Sol, explained that the ten or so older Italian men in the back smoking cigarettes and playing cards wager only the various offerings of the restaurant instead of dollars. Cappuccino, espresso, gelato, juice, or tea.”
Longtime reader, author and guest contributor of all things historical in Southern Brooklyn Joseph Ditta managed to find a Maurice Sendak illustration published even earlier than the one we ran last week.
The newly unearthed work is the “cover of the June 1943 Boody Beacon, the yearbook of David A. Boody Junior High School at 228 Avenue S in Gravesend,” according to Ditta.
Ditta’s blog, the Gravesend Gazette, also shows Sendak’s 1943 class photo and a 1940 U.S. census, of which Ditta writes: “Incidentally, for those who insist on claiming Maurice Sendak as a son of Bensonhurst, we present the following page from the 1940 U.S. federal census, which shows the Sendak family (on lines 20 through 24) — parents Philip and Sadie with their children Nettie, Jack, and eleven-year-old “Morris” — living at 1717 West 6th Street, between Quentin Road and Kings Highway. That’s right smack in the middle of Gravesend.”
This most certainly must be the earliest known published Sendak illustration, unless of course Ditta finds a copy of Sendak’s childhood doodles, which given his researching abilities, may not be too far off.
An early block print by Maurice Sendak, published in his high school yearbook.
See the image above? It could be Maurice Sendak’s first-ever published illustration, a block print created to run alongside the touching personal essay of a friend in their Lafayette High School yearbook. That same year, Sendak, a Bensonhurst native, also illustrated a textbook titled Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff. It’s hard to know which came first, but the block print above isn’t just a potential milestone in the career of the legendary author and illustrator of works including Where the Wild Things Are, it’s an example of the kind, giving nature he’s renown for.
Similarly, the story behind the resurfacing of the print shows the same sweet generosity.
Bensonhurst Bean reader Michael C. Marmer tipped us off about the illustration following Sendak’s death on Tuesday. His mother, Ruth Luberoff, wrote the essay it was created for. Marmer shares his and his mother’s story below, and a copy of Luberoff’s original essay is at the bottom of this post.
Loren Kantor lived in Brooklyn and growing up, Bensonhurst native son Sandy Koufax was his hero.
It was that apotheosis of the famous Dodgers pitcher in Kantor’s childhood home that led him to make a woodcut print of Koufax.
“I never saw him pitch, I was too young. But my dad would talk about him over and over, as if speaking about a Biblical prophet,” he told Bensonhurst Bean.
And if woodcut seems like an odd way to memorialize someone in this digital day and age, well, we thought so, too. But Kantor explained to us that that art form is about definitive-ness, which perhaps lends some permanence to fleeting memories.
“Something about the boldness of the lines and the old-school nature of the images. My grandfather was a Torah scribe. He used to tell me, ‘One mistake and you have to start over.’ Woodcuts are the same way. One bad cut and you have to start over,” Kantor said.
The Koufax woodcut further evokes the idea of perfection. From writing Torah or carving wood to pitching a World Series shutout game, in each man there is an unmatched dedication to their craft.
“Of course I’m hurt,” said the monastery’s superior, Mother Pauline, who found out about the vandalism from a worshipper attending Mass. “By the time I got out there, the police were already here.”
Cops say the weight of the stone figurines means several people were likely involved in the crime, which comes a month into the Lenten season.
Investigators suspect the sacrilege on the grounds of the Catholic girls’ school was intended as a prank, not as any kind of anti-religious gesture.
As police scoured the scene and gathered evidence — including the lamb’s severed head — they recovered a glass candle and a bottle of Guinness that will be checked for fingerprints and DNA evidence, NYPD sources said.
City Councilman Vincent Gentile, who represents Bay Ridge, called the acts despicable and pledged his assistance to the monastery, which is part of the mission of the Sisters of the Visitation – a Catholic religious order that goes back to 17th Century France, in restoring the sacrosanct works of art.
The mother superior, who told reporters that the monastery and all-girls school has never had problems with vandalism before, would not say if they were planning on pressing charges against the perpetrators.
Photo Credit: Eric Michael Johnson for The New York Times
After emigrating to Atlanta, Georgia from Kiev, Ukraine twenty years ago, Semion Shkolnik and his wife Alla experienced material success and familial happiness, only to discover that in life, both can be fleeting. Continue Reading »
The following is a press release from the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, introduced legislation designed to let visual artists share in revenues generated by the resale of their works. The Equity for Visual Artists Actof 2011, which was also introduced in the Senate today by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), would set aside a royalty rate of 7% for resales in excess of $10,000 at large auction houses, half of which would go to the visual artists, and half to nonprofit art museums. Continue Reading »