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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crossing Delancey

Subcultures have their own languages, and the art community is no different. Over time, I have been privy to bits and pieces of artspeak, with words such as iconography, a word not often used outside the world of the arts. I say bits and pieces, because the special vocabulary is not wasted on the outsider, and perhaps there is even an element of secrecy, lest we learn enough to do an effective job of posing as one who is knowledgeable in the arts, thereby diminishing the special and exclusive nature of the "club."

I recall once trying my hand at creative design for my business. Upon presenting it to an artist friend, I was immediately told, in a very critical way, that my efforts did not have to be so literal - a new use of the word for me.

I must admit, however, that I liked that use of the word and have added it to my arsenal of word weaponry, to be used when necessary. Recently, while crossing Delancey, the film of the same name came to mind, and it occurred to me that taking a photo would be an opportunity for a literal interpretation of the film's title. Perhaps an art faux pas, but my photography is not being subjected to an art school group crit (see a New York Times article here).

Literally crossing the street can be an undertaking - Delancey is a major thoroughfare with eight lanes extending from the Bowery to the Williamsburg Bridge, which crosses the East River to Brooklyn.
The Delanceys were a rich, pre-revolutionary French Huguenot family. Their large estate became what is now the Lower East Side. Read more about the history of the neighborhood here at the New York Songlines website.

At one time, until the 1920s, Delancey Street was a high-end shopping district. Over time, however, Delancey fell on hard times, and the character of the businesses changed, becoming the primary shopping district of the Jewish Lower East Side, known for discount merchandise and businesses such as Ratner's Kosher Restaurant (closed 2002), the Bowery Ballroom, and the Essex Street Market.

Delancey Street is also the site of one of my earliest postings in 2006 - the Live Poultry Market. There has been some gentrification, and the neighborhood is now a blend of older shops, a smattering of Chinatown and discount merchants, and newer retailers and night clubs.

The film, Crossing Delancey, is the story of Isabelle, an Upper West Side Jewish resident, who, matched to a pickle maker on the more ethnically authentic Lower East Side, finds love crossing to the south of Delancey Street, literally :)

1 comment:

Accidental Londoner said...

Ah, it takes a brave soul to tackle the Delancey crossing - I've teetered on that sidewalk edge many times! What a great photo, and I shall check out the film now - thanks for the tip.