Artist Regina Perlin painting on the Carroll Street Bridge,
Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
See Regina Perlin's work at Perfect Corner on Smith Street
Artist Regina Perlin and I have much in common. We both moved to Carroll Gardens about 24 years ago, have a deep attachment to our adopted neighborhood and find beauty in the ordinary. And we are both magically drawn to the Gowanus Canal and to the Carroll Street Bridge, I with my camera, Regina with her easel, canvas and paints.
I fell in love with her work long before I actually met the artist. I was enchanted by her paintings of local storefronts. The ones of Jim and Andy's Produce and of D'Amico's Foods on Court Street are particularly charming, imbued with light, sentiment and the spirit of this historic neighborhood. It was only much later that I got to see her equally beautiful series of paintings of the Gowanus Canal and of the industrial area surrounding the waterway.
A native Brooklynite, Ms. Perlin was a literature and arts major at New York University, before attending the New York Studio School and then the Art Students League. She started as an abstract painter, but did not quite know where to go with abstraction. She originally came to realism to hone her craft, intending to apply lessons learned to return to that style.
Instead, she discovered outdoor painting and thrived on the interaction of passers-by who stopped to talk to her about the neighborhood and about its history. It is that spirit and that love of place that translates into her paintings. Now, she almost paints exclusively in her neighborhood.
Sitting together at the Fall Café recently, I asked her about her Gowanus Canal series. " The Gowanus Canal is a wonderful treasure because it has everything" she told me when I asked her why she was so drawn to the waterway. "The area has a lot of light. I like the shapes and I like the bit of chaos. I love the juxtaposition between beauty and neglect. The canal is an unexpected bucolic scene in the middle of an industrial world."
She tries to downplay the decay surrounding the canal. However, she does incorporate its many shapes. For example, the form of a rusted, broken down truck becomes part of her composition.
Ms. Perlin is wary of the the changes that will inevitably come to the Gowanus area in the not too distant future. She hopes that whatever may come, the light, the openness and the human scale of the area surrounding the Gowanus Canal will be preserved.
If you happen to see Regina Perlin painting around the neighborhood, or on the Carroll Street bridge, one of her favorite spots, stop and say hello. She is a lovely lady and an extraordinary talent. This neighborhood is lucky to have her.
Regina Perlin will be exhibited at Perfect Corner, a family-owned custom picture framing shop at 345 Smith Street, corner of Carroll Street. (Stop 28 on the tour)