Article by Caresse Singh.
I was a little nervous when I got out of the cab. The facade of 543 Union Street did not exactly scream “gallery.” I wondered for a moment if this was some sort of practical joke. Or maybe, it was like a page out of “Harry Potter” and I had to knock on the brick wall in a certain way to find the entrance. To my relief, two other guests soon arrived for this same event and were also puzzled as to how to get in. Following the suggestion of a stranger and a note on the door, we turned the corner, went up an alley-way and there we found Observatory.
We were greeted by the kind smile of Joanna Ebenstein – a key figure in the creation of Observatory. As we waited for the presentation to begin, we made our introductions and looked around the space. The entrance area was thoughtfully covered with artwork of varying mediums. Among some of the most memorable pieces was a long orange knitted scarf hung across the ceiling and extending down into a bundle on the floor, with pictures of its’ many contributing knitters in a glass case to the right of the heap.
After some chatting with John Dilworth and by my second helping of wine, the presentation began. Dilworth talked us through “The Dirdy Birdy,” “Chicken from Outer Space,” “Hector the Get Over Cat,” “The Mousochist,” “Life in Transition,” and “Rinky Dink.” On the theme at hand (Animators as God) Dilworth vividly expressed his opinions to us in a manner so fluid, so stream-of-consciousness, that no summary would do it justice. Simply put, show up to his next presentation and it will not disappoint; you have to experience Dilworth’s presence to understand. The event also provided the opportunity to see (and buy) some hand-drawn frames of “Courage the Cowardly Dog” with all the original notes written in the margins!
Following the presentation, we all voyaged to Canal, a local bar with a great backyard and get this – unlimited free popcorn! While there, I had the great opportunity to speak further with Ebenstein and another key figure at Observatory: animator and illustrator G.F. Newland. The two have planned many more interesting events for this summer at Observatory. For more on Observatory, check out: www.observatoryroom.org. It is a promising new gallery space as part of the Proteus Gowanus art complex and located in a safe, beautiful and somewhat quaint part of Brooklyn.
Without it being imposed on us, the theme of “Animators as God” lingered in the air through-out the group discussion. Newland expressed his interest in sequential art as Robert Lyons discussed his recent findings on the subject of monsters. Emmet Goodman discussed his revived love of playing bass guitar and Pilar Newton reminisced about her impromptu harmonica performance. In response to me wishing I was half-robot (a result of my recurrent and painful battle with knee dislocation) Dilworth reminded me that the sensation of “raindrops on bare skin” far outweighs any temporary pain we as humans experience. If you accept the notion that God is the ultimate designer, we were all mini-Gods that night – whether it be through the creation of an animated film, or the creation of a gallery space to honor art, or the creation of music, or of thought provoking conversation and advice.
The night ended with the ironic and pleasant twist of most of us being walking distance from home (as opposed to the usual hour and a half trip from the city that we Brooklynites so often endure.) If for nothing else than the close proximity, put Observatory on your list of places to check out this summer. Reasonably priced and visually compelling, this intelligent collective of artists will certainly stimulate your minds. Both Ebenstein and Newland expressed interest in hosting more animation presentations; submissions and ideas for events are welcomed!