In February, Untapped New York Insiders were treated to a special tour of Westbeth Artist Housing led by artist and resident, Gayle Kirschenbaum who currently has a photography exhibition in the First Floor Gallery of the complex in Greenwich Village. The tour, which took us from the courtyard to the rooftop of Westbeth, covered the fascinating history and current operations of Westbeth, and also let us get a glimpse of Kirchenbaum’s own apartment.
The waiting list to get an apartment in Westbeth, where the rent for a studio can be as low as $900 a month, is so long that the list is closed (despite a brief reopening of the waitlist for a month last year). Kirschenbaum, who is an Emmy award winning Netflix filmmaker and TEDx speaker, moved into Westbeth in 2000 after being on the waitlist for nine years.
Kirschenbaum’s Westbeth apartment is homey and eclectic with a shabby chic aesthetic. The dining table is made from a door she found. She built out much of the apartment, including rolling bookcases, closets and a lofted bedroom that has a window out onto the living room. Kirschenbaum enjoys gatherings where she can facilitate the meeting of people who might not ordinarily have known each other, aided by her own knack of bringing people together.
Kirschenbaum was trained as a visual artist at SUNY Binghamton and began her career as a graphic designer. Her apartment is full of works from this early time period, including self portraits, photographs, and other paintings, although today she is most renown for her documentary Look At Us Now, Mother!, the film that transformed Kirschenbaum’s life. It explores her troubled relationship with her abusive mother and the path to redemption that has turned the woman, whom Kirschenbaum says “I only wished would disappear” into her closest friend. The film became the launching pad for a movement on forgiveness that Kirchenbaum has been building called “NO MORE DRAMA WITH MAMA” which she teaches through seminars, keynotes and workshops.
Kirschenbaum’s documentary work prior to this included HBO’s “A Dog’s Life: A Dogamentary” that documented her relationship with Chelsea, the canine “love of her life” and “MY NOSE,” a short film she did with Albert Maysles about her mother’s quest to get her to have a nose job (spoiler alert: she failed).
Kirschenbaum showing guests her photography in STILL MOMENTS
Kirschenbaum was always a photographer, but the iPhone greatly transformed her work. The photo exhibition STILL MOMENTS at Westbeth is a series of photographs Kirschebaum took while traveling all around the world, including Vietnam, Italy, Uruguay, Chile, Australia, and more, but also features photographs taken just nearby in Greenwich Village, on Long Island and in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The photographs reflect her keen eye for composition, as well as her interest in digitally altering the images through the iPhone for an almost surrealist effect. Kirschenbaum says, “Colors, shapes and compositions are part of how I see along with observing relationships, feeling moods and temperature.”
Kirschenbaum’s photographs were exhibited in Spain at the Barcelona Foto Biennale in October 2018, and she received an honorable mention under landscape for the Pollux Awards 2019. STILL MOMENTS will be up at Westbeth until April 6th. Limited edition prints of the photographs are available for purchase. Gayle will be doing two additional walkthroughs March 15 and March 29th from 2-5 PM where guests will the main exhibit and her studio (and get a 10% discount on her photographs) — meeting location is in the lobby of Westbeth.
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Westbeth Artist Housing.