And Then the Artists Take Us to Their Loft

April 2nd and 4th, 2015 – Harlem, Chelsea, SoHo

Aaron: Hey Megan – Caty’s uncle has an art gallery reception in Chelsea tonight, then we’re going to their loft in SoHo for a wine/dinner open house.  If you’re interested.

Let’s think about this…YES.

So, what do you wear to a gallery reception? I’d written up this big long explanation of how to find the Most Optimal Outfit for a situation like this, involving a decision making-matrix, various variables (External Weather, Walking Distance, Formality of Event, Ice Breaking Potentiality) and long story short,  I decided to wear these patterned pants thinking that they MIGHT be a potential ice breaker for people I meet at the gallery. Because in my head, I could imagine a conversation with a stranger that starts with, “hey, cool pants” and ends with “you’re awesome, let’s hang out while you’re in New York. ”

(For the record, there are a total of zero pants-related conversations at the gallery. I may have spent too much time analyzing what the ‘optimal’ outfit would be, but the data’s inconclusive.)

Anyway, we arrive in Chelsea,  (epicenter of the NY gallery scene) for Caty’s uncle Julian’s Opening Reception for New Season and not knowing much about art, suffice it to say the paintings are stunning and it’s great to see Julian surrounded by friends, family and enthusiastic art-lovers.  See below for a sample and if you want to see more, check out the gallery site):Warbler (1)

Julian Hatton, warbler, 2014-15. Oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Harris Gallery. – See more at: http://www.artcritical.com/2015/04/26/peter-malone-on-julian-hatton/#sthash.tRPRtwXX.dpuf

trio

Julian Hatton, trio, 2012-13. Oil on canvas on panel, 24 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Elizabeth Harris Gallery. – See more at: http://www.artcritical.com/2015/04/26/peter-malone-on-julian-hatton/#sthash.tRPRtwXX.dpuf

Caty and me in front of “trouble”, our favorite.

After the reception (and a quick pit stop for tacos at Chelsea Market) we arrive at Julian and his wife Alison’s loft in SoHo.  Taking in the scene, it all feels incredibly New York: a loft occupied by two working artists, dim interior, high ceilings, open floor plan and paintings on the walls hemming in friends, family, drop cloths and brushes, and many wine glasses.  And here we get a sneak peak at Alison’s art as well:

Cosmopolitan600

Cosmopolitan     2014    Acrylic, ink, and pigment on canvas    40 x 60 inches
Surrounded by our hosts’ art, lasagna and wine glasses in hand, gazing out the windows to the Manhattan streets below, it’s a moment to enjoy. So we plant ourselves at the periphery of the room like three kids looking on at a grown-up dinner party.

Dinner’s followed by endless brie and grapes  and more wine, and we work at a bit of small-talk conversation with some of the few attendees in the 15-45 age range.  Shortly thereafter, a tipsy gentleman shares with us how some prized art in his office was destroyed in the 9-11 attacks.  The three of us aren’t quite sure how to respond, and I’m struck that this is the first personal story of the 9-11 attacks I’ve encountered.  To him, it’s a passing anecdote, to me, it’s quite interesting to get a small snippet of insight into what it’s like to be a New Yorker, to have something horrific and life-changing happen in the midst of your day to day existence.  I’ll think a bit more about the attacks as I get to know the city more in the weeks to come.  For now, we thank Alison and Julian and get on our way, knowing we’ll get more time with them at dinner in two days.

Alison makes her way over to the kids corner to catch up with Aaron before we make our exit.

Two days later, we return to the Broome Street loft for dinner, and are welcomed with more wine, cheese and bread, smoked salmon on endive, and eventually, a hesitant request for some help with food prep.


Shortly after arriving we’re joined by Julian’s brother Fritz and his wife and daughter, a delightful little family visiting from their winery in Napa.  Before dinner, as we snack on our weight in brie and crackers, Aaron, Caty and I attend an impromptu Wine 101 course with Fritz, where we learn the key qualities of wine – color, aroma, taste, finish and that “Syrah” and “Shiraz” are actually the same type of wine, just titled differently based on where it came from.  And I’m sad to say that’s the entirety of what I remember from our course, and I don’t think I can even blame it on the alcohol.

We’re joined as well by Julian’s sister, whose name I’m not remembering, but when she pulled the lamb from the oven and beckoned Fritz and Julian to help carve it, she spoke in trilly French while waving the carving knife.  Then we feasted on lamb and pasta primavera and I started to hope I’d provide adequate dinner conversation with such a cultured, intelligent bunch.

See, the loft has been one of the first times I felt a bit out of my class league.  It started last year, after meeting Caty’s relatives over sushi, when Aaron taught me that when someone tells you they “went to college in Boston” you’re supposed to leave it at that. “Oh, where in Boston?” seems like natural follow-up, given Boston’s notorious university density, but you’re supposed to take the cue, and not press someone to reveal their elite status as a graduate from say, Harvard.

I had no idea this was protocol, but I can appreciate why you’re not supposed to press.  When you realize you’re talking to someone from an elite institution, you might start making all sorts of assumptions about intelligence, wealth, power, or how you compare in these areas, which only impedes your ability to connect. Just a day or so earlier I’d read in “Scary Close” about Donald Miller’s experience at a treatment center where attendees can’t share their professions.  Because when they do, this center found, those with less prestigious professions started to shy away from those they deemed to be more ‘successful’ than them, which really eroded their ability to connect with one another, what with this perceived inferiority and all.

Indeed, Julian and Alison, while brilliant and impressively accomplished, are also kind, hospitable and engaging, with a sparkling energy and zest that make you excited to grow older and settle into life.  In the way you experience a person day to day, these qualities may matter as much if not more than their pedigree, and for someone trying to grow beyond what I can list on my resume, this feels important.

And though our time at the loft feels incredibly “New York,” with the artist lifestyle, the elegant food and conversation, it’s also not entirely unfamiliar.  On these two nights, the preparation and enjoyment of good food brings people together, conversation flows in and out, mostly the light and trivial with the occasional drop of something more substantial, sometimes allowed to linger, sometimes swiftly redirected.  A family gathering of my own might not look so different. If you swapped out the Cabernet for Diet Coke or craft beer, lamb for grilled hamburgers or salmon, and the gourmet French pastries from Spring Street for one of my Grandma Anne’s berry pies.  Not so different at all, really.

And though I haven’t fully formulated my beliefs on the state of our nation’s education system, or read The New Yorker in well, maybe ever, as we say goodbye to our gracious hosts and I notice the Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter cups on the kitchen counter, I’m reminded that we still might have more in common than I’d think…

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