This week’s cover is by the artist Jenny Kroik. Kroik, who was born in Russia and grew up in Israel, is an avid chronicler of the city, and her past covers have depicted scenes in the subway and at the Strand bookstore. For her latest, she takes us to a pastry shop on Arthur Avenue, in the Bronx. Kroik recently talked to us about her art, and about what draws her to New York life.
How long have you been painting?
All my life. My mom, who is very careful, thought oil paints could be harmful for my health, so she would only let me use watercolors, which is what I use to this day. I started taking lessons when I was twelve, studying with a Russian teacher who was classically trained.
You have wide-ranging experience as an artist and teacher. What attracts you to narrative illustrations?
A lot of the classes that I teach are about experimentation and why it’s important for a strong art practice. In my own work, I’ve noticed that even when I work abstractly, it contains a story. In graduate school, some of my work was about “the landscape as a portrait” or “natural history as a portrait,” so I realized that I probably just want to paint portraits. I’m quite curious to know what other people are doing and why they’re doing it. It’s nosiness, with a hint of philosophy.
This cover was inspired by Egidio Pastry Shop, in the heart of the Bronx’s Little Italy. What caught you about this specific scene?
My neighbor Danielle Oteri invited me on a tour she organizes of Arthur Avenue, where her family used to own a butcher shop. We walked through all the stores, and it was this giant, happy sensory overload. Every business had such a sense of history, and every item had a personality.
Toward the end of the tour, we went to Egidio and had some cannolis. As I ate, I was already sketching out the painting in my mind. The lady who worked there was so lovely, and I knew I wanted to include her. And, of course, I surrounded her with as many delicious pastries as I could fit in the composition, because I want to eat them all!
Your work is often sourced from scenes in New York. What makes you stop and think, I should paint this?
I have a hard time, because I want to paint almost everything I see! I have notebooks all over my house full of potential ideas. When I was younger, I wanted to create something deep; most of the things in the world are so terrible, and I thought my art had to be heavy, too. But that kind of art isn’t my strength. I discovered that I was a closet optimist, that I love people, and that, no matter how hard I try, my paintings come out happy and wonky, even when I’m not feeling especially great.
See below for a few more of Kroik’s paintings around Arthur Avenue:
“Our tour guide, Danielle Oteri, at Madonia Bakery.”
For more of Kroik’s covers, see below:
“At the Strand.”
“Next Stop: Spring.”