Introductory Essay

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Joan Didion, Why I Write, 1976

“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”

Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayers, 1977

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

Joan Didion, The White Album, 1979


I like J.D., in her own mining, she’s tapped human impulse, the desire to make sense of our lives, at the least, to learn, be secure in our place. Taken in bits, we begin with the immediate, we look around and we name things. We tell stories. The earliest known, rendered images are exclusively figurative. Animals are in high number for their variety, and in great realistic detail for the desire to learn their parts and habits, the possible weapons/gifts of what are ultimately remote species but inherently understood as a source. The prizing of accuracy in an artwork should come as no surprise. Early human forms, a like species, are simplified. Universal contributing features to the human race, e.g. female breasts, are recorded (often exaggerated). Portraiture, even as a crude amalgamation of admirable attributes, didn’t surface until there were leaders/rulers. Specificity, the nameable, is rooted in desire and fear, and they shift. Abstraction based in specificity is acquired, sometimes an accident, always a choice and in many ways a luxury. A work’s failure to transcend isn’t necessarily the fault of the artist.This show is first selected individual stories, but collectively the voice of contemporary, young, receptive artists based in the NYC boroughs. Figuration, familiarity, is decidedly prevalent, even the told non-objective works host furtive glances, lolly eyes and wee gobs. There is a palpable desire for direct communication; no work misses an opportunity to arrest the viewer. To be heard. They coax: get a grip, lament, insomniacs – a little night music, shoppers, fill your cart, cin-cin, we can be royal, join us at the bar, skip along the paving stones, red bird and pear, pair, turn and face the strange, forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown, red, ride my train to meet, with one-eye, Willie, scale a tree to see Golem, not the one who knocks, as she did dare. The screen beckons us: bounce, wave and stride through candied parallax views. Three cheers for docs, distractions, the dojo, for light sabers and chainsaws, all hail the cartoon network, kirbys, kitties and lads drawn sad. Three years can be a lifetime. Hoo-rah it’s peanut butter and jelly (and banana and honey) time and thanks, now I know how to be a housewife. You are remiss not to tune-in. The authors have been generous. Admire their sobriety, their humor, precision and complexity but no grousing please, the oft foundational, recognizable, silly or youthful are nonetheless, labored, intentional and instinctual accounts. I am fortunate to have witnessed a few first drafts and to hear some told aloud. In each work lies a quiet internal joy of accomplished auteur. And, when brought together, there is ebullient chatter. Each from a distinct home contributes to the gathering. This is the teddy bears’ picnic. I’m certain. You’re sure to be surprised.

A. Coffey, 2024