In all my work, I am interested in tensions between different types of spaces: interior and exterior, urban and suburban, distant and close. Battles of Brooklyn juxtaposes historic imagery from the Old Stone House collection (currently on view on the first floor of OSH) with the contemporary landscape of Fourth Avenue in Park Slope/Gowanus, as viewed from the front windshield of a car. The black and white scenes depict different stages of the Battle of Long Island (also known as the Battle of Brooklyn). This major August 1776 American Revolution battle included a march over what is now the Gowanus Canal near Union St. (an image of historic Gowanus is shown in the rearview mirror). It culminated in a decisive standoff at the Old Stone House (depicted in the front window), where American troops were badly outnumbered by British soldiers and forced to retreat from Brooklyn. However, their bravery and tenacity in defending the Old Stone House became an inspiration for General George Washington to continue fighting for independence.
In the painting, encroaching upon these historic visual references is a full-color collage of new condo developments, traditional brownstone architecture, big box stores, fast food chains, and mechanical repair shops along Fourth Avenue. This alludes to various battles taking place today over the ownership and redevelopment of Brooklyn, based on competing visions of a Utopian Park Slope/Gowanus: including those of corporations, developers, historic preservationists, and community groups. I am partially responding to the luxury high rise construction boom along fourth avenue over the past 5 years, and its threat to Brooklyns historic character and small businesses in this still working-class neighborhood. Gowanus Canal stakeholders are also battling over how best to facilitate its toxic cleanup.
The car window in the painting not only serves as a framing device; it suggests the detachment we may feel from some of these battles, from both the bloodshed of wars once fought on our own soil, and from political activism in Brooklyn todayperhaps the it even suggests a sense of complacency. The car is a frequent motif in my paintings of Brooklyn in transition as it also suggests the isolating and homogenizing influence of suburbia, as structures like insular condo developments and chain stores increasingly take over the landscape.