This week’s cover, “Lower East Side,” was done by the artist Marcellus Hall, and features a wistful portrait of the neighborhood. Hall is a longtime chronicler of the city—his comic narrative “Kaleidoscope City” was published last year—and he recently sat down with us to discuss his work, technique, and interest in New York.
You live on the Lower East Side. What were you trying to capture here?
So this is actually a subsection of the Lower East Side—what some people call “Two Bridges,” or the area between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. For me, it’s the Seward Park neighborhood. I’ve included my favorite watering hole, the Seward Park public library, the Hester Street market, the fountain where kids play, and the various characters I see when I walk around.
How long have you been there?
I’ve lived there since the turn of the century, and love the place. But it’s in something of a transitional state. There are new restaurants and coffee shops next to local businesses whose days, I fear, are numbered. And coming soon are Target, Trader Joe’s—not to mention a god-awful eighty-story “luxury” apartment tower at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge.
What draws you to the city?
I find the human aspect of urban life irresistible. I’m intrigued by the possibilities that result from chance interaction, be they romantic or aesthetic. I also love history, and the city is like an open book. Even street names and architecture give clues about people who were once here but are now gone.
You use a lovely, faded watercolor. How did you land on that medium?
I don’t have a manifesto about my color palette, but I suspect that faded colors evoke for me something about a disappearing past. They also suggest a certain appealing ambiguity. Primary colors are too blunt. Watercolor paint is exciting because of its unpredictability; you can’t always control it. That balance, between chaos and control, has always been attractive to me.
For more of Marcellus Hall’s covers, see below:
“The Great Thaw”
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