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The Miraculous

The Miraculous: New York

56. (The West Side Highway)

On December 15, 1973, an 80-foot-long section of the elevated highway that runs along the western edge of Manhattan collapses under the weight of a dump truck, plunging the truck, and a passenger car behind it, to the street below. The drivers of both vehicles survive. Ironically, the dump truck is loaded with asphalt intended to repair the dilapidated road. Subsequent inspections reveal that the expressway is in a dangerous state of neglect. For the safety of the public, the entire route is closed to traffic and slated for demolition.

The Miraculous: New York

57. (The Bowery)

A French artist who has decided to make his home in New York is sitting at a table in his Bowery studio. In front of him are his favored materials: a small tray containing a mixture of soap and India ink, some sheets of paper none larger than 5.5 by 7 inches and a hollowed-out Chinese paintbrush. He dips one end of the paintbrush into the ink-and-soap concoction and sucks a small amount of the liquid into the straw-like tool. By slowly exhaling he blows a bubble at the end of the brush.

The Miraculous: New York

58. (Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx)

Provided with a generous grant from a private foundation an artist creates a realistic, larger-than-life-size marble sculpture of her and her life-partner embracing in bed, naked except for a sheet artfully draped across their midsections. The pose is inspired by Le Sommeil, Courbet’s scandalous painting of lesbian reverie, which itself was inspired by Baudelaire’s equally scandalous poem, “Femmes Damnées (Delphine et Hippolyte).”

The Miraculous: New York

59. (Coney Island, 42nd Street, the Meatpacking District, among other locations)

Deserted by his parents at a young age, subjected to abuse by his supposed caregivers, a New Jersey teenager finally has no option but to drop out of school and run away to New York City where he survives, barely and dangerously, as a street hustler. Now in his mid-20s and trying to make his way as an artist he embarks on a project that takes him back to many of the locations where he used to sell his body for sex: “the places I had hung out in as a kid,” he later explains, “the places I starved in or haunted.”

The Miraculous: New York

60. (Pier 34, Hudson River)

One day a man in his late 20s who has still not “found himself” in the world hears about some unusual activities on an abandoned Hudson River pier a few blocks from his home. Apparently artists have been sneaking into the vast decaying structure and filling it with unauthorized murals and sculptures. Curious, and a little nervous (trespassing is a crime, after all, and in early 1980s New York wandering around an abandoned pier is not a particularly safe thing to do), he finds himself one afternoon stepping through a broken-into entryway and penetrating into a vast decrepit domain.

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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2021

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