Yikes, what downsizing will turn up! My friend Tony (have known him since art school in the early ’70s) sent some pics of me in front of the Escada store on E. 57th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, circa 1995. Some memories were certainly stirred up. Like the fact I am wearing total thrift-shop attire in front of a luxury-brand store. (Tuxedo jacket from my dry cleaner’s sale of unretrieved items, man’s red sweater vest, maybe from Canal Jeans?)
I had segued out of the cut-paper thing that I did in the 1980s, and was now working in loose brush (Keep moving!) Anything that could conceivably have eyelashes got them! (I think I was influenced by Lamb Chop. Or Brenda Starr. Or both.)
My recent obsession with octopuses reminded me of this:
I was hired to paint the entire storefront window murals, and my strongest memory is that I only had a depth of about 4 feet to stand and paint, between the window and the wall. Talk about being “on it!” I couldn’t step back to get any perspective, so I constantly ran up and down the stairs to the street and crossed over to Tiffany’s to see what I had done. I am not one who enlarges by a grid system—I just “eyeball it” and hope for the best. Occasionally I’d get a honk from a truck driver who’d give a thumbs up—equal to any art director’s approval!
Facing the right of Escada is Burberry. In 2001 they would take over the Escada space and I’d soon be doing murals there, only in the fire staircase that few saw. But that was OK. By then, the fire captain who used to detour his truck down from Harlem to wave at me working in the Escada windows had perished in the World Trade Center. It seemed fitting that I would be embellishing the fire staircase. His last recorded words would be in the staircase at the North Tower.
“3 Truck . . . and we’re still heading up.”
But in 1995, he met me at Escada and we went next door where he treated himself to something he always wanted: a Burberry trench coat. He wore it better than any guy I’d ever seen.
My octopus obsession had become a carrot at the end of the stick during the winter of 2020. After the pandemic lessened a bit, the NY Aquarium was again open! I made a beeline to the lone octopus, who was lethargic in the corner of her tank. I guess even octopuses get the blues.
art and words copyright Sharon Watts