This building served as my gateway to NY as a child of 12. It was like nothing I had ever seen, architecture that transcends expected constraints of structural form. In this space, weight was not carried, it flew. There were no posts or walls, just surfaces endlessly curving. The building was a set of soaring, open wings. The place inspired those who passed through to fly themselves. It remains a pinnacle of midcentury, jet-age design whose magic endures past the usefulness of a small terminal at a global hub airport. And so, shut down after a life of inspired utility, the Flight Center sought to reinvent around the joy of art and design. In recent years it was restored and re-imagined, like me and my own art.
Forty four years later I returned to reflect on the ramifications on my life of being brought to NY. While unexpected, uninvited and in the early years punishing, the move nonetheless gave me the opportunity to find my way as an artist by accepting what this vibrant and ultimately forgiving city offered. NY is welcoming, once you get past the bluster. Again just off a flight from my native West, I had breakfast while the rising sun painted the vaulted volumes, bringing life and awakening memories of the last time I was there. But it was not the same as 1975, and neither was I. Each in our own way was restored and with new purpose. I found my views and spent the day sketching for this drawing series.
The series is rooted in decades of memory and interest in the massive masonry of the Manhattan Anchorage. The FDR Drive runs north and south at its feet, allowing a fleeting glance as you dodge taxis. The façade presented is all business. Piers of plain stone over brick do their stoic work with only simple archways to guide the flow of weight to earth from the steel deck high above. It is a worker’s face to the dark East River waterfront. I would drive past between my new home in Brooklyn and my former one, family still living further up the river. As I passed, I would get a glimpse of the decorative, formal features on the side faces, each topped with a small colonnade. The Drive side was earthy and primal. The roadway above, and the tower standing out in the river were an afterthought. They are made of different stuff and for different purposes, a bargain between purpose and prospect. I was drawn to the one of stone. I would dream of the anchorage set apart from the bridge it holds up, a monumental sculptural block set free.
To produce the pictures I visited the bridge with a sketchbook and open mind, finding areas and view framing that interested me. They caught my attention because of the juxtaposition of the delicate and deliberate architectural ornament, created to add a layer of beauty, to the strength of the engineering. But also I was intrigued by contradictions, like the seemingly paper-thin support walls that take the weight after the cables have run to ground in the anchorages, and before the force of the roadways dives into the city surface fabric. The bridge is a by-way. It is built to transit, but provides areas worthy of stopping to appreciate views beyond or included along its length. The span channels extraordinary forces, guided and focused, stretched taut between the boroughs. I sketched the restraint of moment, the pause from the kinetic grandness of a structure dedicated to the journey.