Artist Philip Van Cott moved from his beloved Red Hook, Brooklyn, to the Connecticut River Valley more than 31 years ago, but it is evident from speaking to him and from his art, that he is still very fond of the South Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up. Just take a look at his wonderful series of paintings entitled "The Games We Played," some of which will be on exhibit in the "Red Hooked" show starting on July 17th at theBrooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, 499 Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, of course.
Philip Van Cott, 64, was born and raised at 588 Court Street. As a child, he hung out and played on 9th Street at the corners of Smith Street and Court Street. His father, like so many others in the neighborhood, was a longshoreman. His mother was a sewing machine operator in a sweat shop in the Doehler Die Building. Van Cott remembers spending days with his mother in the shop, when he was very young,sitting on bails of fabric, playing with his toy soldiers, as she worked at her sewing machine.
At age five, he was enrolled at St. Mary Star of the Sea, on Court Street between Nelson and Luquer Streets. He graduated from the Catholic school eight years later, bounced around high schools until he graduated (or was paroled, as he likes to say) from John Jay High School.
He has been married for almost 40 years to Karen Ann Clinton, who grew up in the Red Hook Housing Projects. In an email to me, he wrote:
"I now paint Red Hook as I remember it. Many of my paintings portray the games we all played in the streets on a daily basis. Other works include my time spent at St. Mary Star of the Sea with the always present Franciscan Brothers and the Little Sisters of the Poor. (See how I made sure I capitalized the name [of the church]? It was a big mistake not to when I was young.)
I never realized how rich and fulfilling living in such a small working class neighborhood could be. Growing up in the Red Hook section of South Brooklyn was an absolutely wonderful experience."
To read more about Philip Van Cott, go to his web site here.