}

Villager Expat

Two years ago I moved away from Greenwich Village. After living in three different neighborhoods all over the city, I'm trying to move back.

March 6, 2020

Mount Adams, painted by my mother in the 1950s when she lived in Cincinnati

Mount Adams, ca. 1956, by Barbara Carter
casein on board, 15 in. x 20 in.
Followers of the FB page "Greater Cincinnati History Group" have posted 123 likes so far to my mother's picture of Mount Adams. Painted in 1956, my dad had just completed his two years in the service at Fort Bragg, NC, and accepted a spot in GE's management training program. 

My parents lived in an apartment in Glen Meadows. It was two years since my mother had graduated Carnegie Tech's College of Art and  would be two years before she became a mother. 


No pictures on the wall? My parents
must have just moved in
Free from the distractions of caring for a family, she worked as an artist at Gibson Greeting Card then quit when they didn't give her anything to do, then worked at a glass company where she designed etchings for drinking glasses. She felt frustrated by the workplace after the serious training of Carnegie Tech's fine arts department and gave up on commercial art, but she didn't stop seeing as one, and was inspired by the Mount Adams landscape to render this picture. I hope to find a permanent public space for it in Cincinnati. The enthusiasm of the Facebook group has been heartwarming.

I'd also like to donate the glasses she designed but I don't know the name of the glass company. Someone suggested Sterling Cut Glass and I've sent them a message but I see other glassware companies on Google that could have been part of Cincinnati's Art Hill in the 50s.  Here's my photo of three glasses. They aren't overtly commercial as the etched glasses they're making today but instead illustrate hobbies and businesses in Cincinnati at that time. 
Barbara Carter original illustrations for a Cincinnati glassware company

Contact: Debbie Carter, VillagerExpat@aol.com, (212) 925-3721

February 27, 2020

Lost artwork: a search to recover my mother's missing paintings

50th Street snow scene, 1986
by Barbara Carter
Here is a watercolor of a 50th Street snow scene my mother painted from her apartment window on Beekman Place. It's part of her series "Midtown Merchants" which is featured in this week's East Midtown Partnership newsletter. Here is a link to the Midtown Merchant Series on Flickr; a movie appears below.

While this blog began with a search for an apartment in Greenwich Village after I made the mistake of moving away, the need to fix this has evolved into other subplots about what's missing in my life. An even deeper desire to find a permanent home for my mother's artwork has led to a search for missing paintings that were lost in moves. In the mid 80s my father sold their house in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island during real estate boom to buy a company in Palmer, Massachusetts, because he was tired of working for other people. Ten years later they moved again to retire in NYC. My parents thought the city's art museums and restaurants would make New York the perfect place to retire, but a noisy apartment drove them out and they moved back to the tranquility of Lloyd Harbor, Long Island, where my dad could indulge his hobby of caring for a lawn and my mother could paint and garden.




January 12, 2020

A Soho moment


Soho, NYC
Soho mesmerizes me. I slow down from my usual fast-paced self, thinking about other things, paying no attention to what's happening around me to stroll and look, really look, through the big gleaming store windows at the nicest clothes, shoes and handbags in the world. Shoppers decked out in leather and spikey heels glide across the lumpy Belgian block streets like there's nothing to it. I look up and admire the cast-iron buildings. It's not cool to look up at buildings in New York but no one's paying attention to me. It's like floating through a lovely dream. I think I would be happy living there again. 

But I'm stuck in a lease in Midtown. It's been almost a year and and it went by quickly and as much as I'd like to get out of here my hair stylist, the voice of reason in my life, said the next year will go by quickly too; stick it out, it would cost too much money to move. 

November 24, 2019

Lingering at the Waverly Diner for its art of the past

Going to diners became a habit when I moved to New York. The urge to get out of my apartment strikes as soon as I wake up, as much to escape a small space as a craving for that first cup of coffee. I don't like Starbucks. I always pick a Greek diner with windows.

Waverly Diner, looking north to the Jefferson Market Library

The Waverly Diner sits on a corner, and from a table on the raised platform I can look out at Sixth Avenue and down Waverly Place towards the park. A few weeks ago I sat by the window and saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez come up the subway steps with someone, looking lost. They turned every which way then took off down Sixth Avenue.

October 16, 2019

Psychics and gypsies: a shared fascination by the women in my family

As I walk past psychic storefronts in the Village I'm tempted to go in and make an appointment but I'm wary. I want to talk to my mother again, and things that happened around her passing have made me want to seek her out. The story she wrote about my great-grandmother who was hypnotized by a gypsy into withdrawing all her money from the bank came to mind, and sent me on a trip to her hometown this week to look for the traces it says existed.


Annie's Gypsy
by Barbara Carter

On my way home from kindergarten I would always cut through Annie's backyard. The chickadees were at the pedestal birdbath in her garden . . .

October 1, 2019

My tenement apartment in Soho, and how air rights have changed the neighborhood

The view from across the street, 
my former tenement building (Google Maps screenshot)
I wasn't getting my hopes up. I'd seen an apartment in this building three years ago. It was on a high floor and overlooked the small park and tenements with antique stores where I lived 17 years ago. But the home of an old woman who used to emerge from the front door of the house to go sit on the benches with the Italians in the park has been torn down, and a glass tower twice as high as the tenement buildings has taken its place.

September 11, 2019

Veterans Fishing Station, a/k/a The Clam Bar, Cold Spring Harbor



Do you remember those days hanging out at the Village Green?
Engineer boots, leather jackets and tight blue jeans
--Billy Joel,
"Scenes From an Italian Restaurant"

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing two lithos of my mother's at the financial services firm Deloitte U.S. in Rockefeller Center (below). One is an image of the Veterans Fishing Station in Cold Spring Harbor, a/k/a The Clam Bar, next to the Village Green that Billy Joel sings about. The Whalers Inn across the street is now the Harbor Mist restaurant. Many thanks to Huntington town historian Robert C. Hughes for identifying the site and to Jeff Springsteen for sharing the photo of his friends from 1978-79 ("I Grew Up in Cold Spring Harbor" Facebook page).

September 1, 2019

Small talk with friends in New York restaurants


On this Labor Day my friends from the Chinese restaurant Charlie Mom are on my mind. It was my Cheers, I made small talk with the waiters, mostly about my never-ending apartment hunt. For the apartment upstairs, David told me, they were asking $4,000 a month for a thousand square feet. "They remodeled it." After a pregnant pause in which we both imagined how nice it could be--a Greenwich Village apartment that used to be a house in the 1800s, the brick walls, original wood floors, lots of windows--we agreed that the rent was ridiculous and anyone would be crazy to pay it. "Rent is money thrown away." And the rents in Greenwich Village were over the top.

August 3, 2019

Celebrating John Sloan's birthday around the world

A Woman's Work, 1912,
Cleveland Museum of Art



What images come to mind when you think of John Sloan? For many women from as far away as Spain, Turkey and Iceland who remembered his birthday on Twitter yesterday, it's his paintings of women hanging laundry.

Sloan painted these scenes from his apartment windows in Greenwich Village and, later, Chelsea. In his time, clotheslines were ubiquitous in immigrant neighborhoods (for  photos see "A Fine Line: The Art of the Clothesline" on MCNY Blog: New York Stories).

May 12, 2019

Ladies who lunch: remembering my mother on Mother's Day

Are you a lady who enjoys the ritual of lunching out?

I am! When I was around five my mother invited me out for our first lunch together, a special trip to Kaufmann's department store in Monroeville, PA. It was a Saturday, and we spent all morning getting ready . . .