Adler Family Orchard and Delancey St
I did this painting on the corner of Delancey Street and Orchard Street, in front of the Banker’s Trust Building. It was a cool and windy area and even when the Lower East Side of Manhattan lay smothered by a thick blanket of heat, my spot was a joy to be in.
Only the size of the canvas was the problem. It was so big that it overbalanced my easel and on windy days it nearly fell down.
A tall young man walked by one day, took a rope and tied the easel to the grilled bank window. After that, Roy came often and we’d talk about art while I worked. One day, he brought his wife and little boy, and I painted them walking on the left hand side of the street, all the way in back. He’s wearing an orange sweatshirt and she’s carrying a baby. Their other two children walk next to them.Once in the late afternoon, four “Chassidem” came from the white building in the left hand corner. Their clothes were just what I needed to use as a balance for the strong blacks of the Moscot business. I didn't paint them as they really looked, because they might have resented that their images were taken. So I watched how they moved and talked and created my own four “Chassidem”.Yetta used to stop and talk to me whenever she passed by.“Such a painting I would love to have. But my walls are so ugly. Maybe I’ll get into a nice clean project, and then maybe you’d make me such a picture.”“If you stay here a while I’ll paint you into this one.”“Oh no, I don’t like for nobody to see me when I look like this. I’m sick and I don’t look good and maybe I’ll get better and then you could do it.”Her legs were ulcerated and she walked painfully. She used to take her shopping cart wherever she went. They wanted her to go to the hospital, but she had three dogs and couldn’t leave them.Yetta loved to watch the painting taking shape and would point out everything in it to the people around her. She would get all excited and her face would crinkle around her eyes and they would become a bright young blue.“Look, she’s even painting the shoes in the window!”Sometimes weeks would go by in which I didn’t see her. When she came back to the street again, she would look older, and she would wear heavier clothes and drag her legs a little slower.She hasn’t been down for a long time. I painted her in the right hand corner of the picture and blurred her features gently so that no one could recognize her and see her as she looks today. Elaine and Mike Adler are in front of the Fine and Klein store. We met when I was doing the first painting of the Orchard Street series and the friendship of our two families is one of the beautiful things which grew out of this painting.Their oldest son, Billy, stands on the right side of the street looking into his camera, their next oldest, Rickie, wears a striped jacket and stands under the red and yellow sign of the Radio Center, and Donnie, the youngest boy, is walking next to the furthest “Chassid” towards Elaine and Mike. Marie, their youngest, is wearing a pink patterned shirt and is shown looking over the ice cream cart.Jimmy and Angelo are landmarks on the street. They seem to have always stood on or near the same two spots. Jimmy has the hot dog stand with the umbrella and Angelo has the wagon with ices.There are so many different types of people on the streets of the Lower East Side. People who are active in them as Jimmy and Angelo are, people who like them are part of the life of the streets. And there are people like Ramon who drift in and out, people who are scarcely visible.He must have been watching me paint for a long time before he first spoke. Whenever I was on the street, at some part of the day he would be there. At times, he was almost sober, at other times, his voice would be soft and blurry with alcohol. When he was aware of his surroundings he would help me when someone asked a question in Spanish. At other times, he would lean against the wall and speak softly to himself. He walks in the middle of the street, right in front. He’s wearing tan pants and a tan shirt and carrying a brown paper bag. Sometimes there was a bottle in that bag and sometimes a piece of southern fried chicken from the take out place around the corner.Ramon was a very quiet and gentle man and somehow he never looked as if he belonged to the noise and the color of these streets. And lately, like Yetta, he seems to have disappeared from sight.Officer Frank Spinetti reminds me of the cool, collected image of the lawman...except for his face. When you get close enough to see it, it looks warm and friendly. He towers over everyone when he patrols the area and I put him into the the middle of Orchard Street.I wish I knew who the rest of the people in the painting are...