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Dowell Family Orchard St

So much happened during the two months in which I did this painting. I began after Labor Day when the days were warm and sunny. The colors which I used were warm and sunny too. I stood in front of the Adler store. Irving Adler, getting over a heart attack, was recuperating beautifully. The street was busier than ever, and the temperature made working a delight...and suddenly the Yom Kippur war exploded in Israel.On the day after the war began, I was on Orchard Street, and nothing was the same anymore. The shopkeepers clustered in corners and the mood was heavy and serious.There was an Israeli flag hanging from the record store at the other end of the block, and instead of the usual loud “soul music”, “Jerusalem, the Golden” blasted from the speakers... that, and the news. It is all that we listened to hour after hour...”Jerusalem the Golden” and the news.The days dragged on, and as the mood became heavier and heavier, so did the colors of my palette. The yellows became tans and the blues dulled. Someone’s son was reported missing on the Golan Heights in Israel, and someone’s daughter was still unheard from in Tel Aviv, and the cold came and the wind blew and I tied my easel to the meter to keep it from blowing away. The neighborhood children often held my canvas down when it shook too much, and there were times when my fingers were too numb to control the brush.But the painting had found its pattern. It had settled into the mood of late autumn when winter can be felt coming and when the elation of the crisp fall days is gone.Galishoff’s Restaurant is around the corner on Rivington Street, and I liked to sit near the window when I had coffee there. One day I saw an old woman with her head in her hand, looking out of the window across the street. I drew her on a piece of paper and intended to put her into one of the windows in the painting, but she just didn’t fit and I made her younger but just as lonely-looking and it felt right. She is looking out of the third window on the second floor.In the right hand corner, Charles Rosner stands with his hand in his pocket, talking to a shopper. He used to work on Orchard Street with his father when he was a little boy...“Did your father have a store or a push cart?”“Who has a pushcart? We had boxes..that was better because if you saw a good spot across the street then you could grab the boxes and run! My father grabbed the big box and I grabbed the little one...then I became a manufacturer. We would buy stockings at the mill and I would put one size 9 and one size 11 together, package them and sell them as a pair.”

Now he owns the store and it’s a beautiful one. Next to Charles Rosner stand two shoppers and then, with his back turned, is the man who works outside of Harry’s Bargain Store. He knew that he was being painted, but when I asked if I could write about him he shrugged, shook his head and said,“Painting yes, writing no”.

Last spring, when I was finished with the first painting of the series, I met Susan and Robert Dowell. They stand on the sidewalk towards the center of the painting, Susan in the striped purple cape, Robert in the grey jacket and dark trousers. They picked the spot which they wanted most for this painting.When I began to write the stories for the Orchard Street series, I wrote to ask how they came to shop there. Here is Susan’s answer:Dear Hedy:As you requested I am writing a bit about our interest in the Orchard Street area. Orchard Street is one of our favorite places. It has the stamp of the immigrant identity of our country, something so rapidly fading from daily consciousness. We love looking at people. There is an uninhibited quality that permeates the street. Robert is particularly fond of studying the architecture of different periods, and Orchard Street certainly offers some interesting examples for study.For me, Orchard Street is a way of stepping back into the past, making ties with my immigrant grandparents. My mother and father both spent much of their childhood around that area. My mother was born at 113 Norfolk Street, then moved to Rivington Street. My father was born on Eldridge Street, then moved to Madison Street, and then to East Broadway. I grew up hearing many stories about life on the Lower East Side.Regards to your family, Susan Dowell

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