Mommy and the Man

 Location Ridgewood (Queens)
Rent $700 (market)
Square feet 1,000 (floor of 1920s two-family house)
Occupant Gary Speziale (artist; circulation assistant, Bobst Library; master's candidate in religious aesthetics, Gallatin School, NYU)

Mommy! It's the Mommy Room—the kitchen. The madonnas are in this room. There are a lot more madonnas but they're not up now. [He holds up a small madonna statue.] This I found so cheap, I cannot tell you.

You have all these drawings of nude men. I've had a lot of models come here to pose. Some are not sure how to react to the religious imagery all over. They're comfortable with their nudity and sensuality. You could put them in the sexiest pose ever but they're uncomfortable posing as Jesus. I'll look at them and say, Oh, you know who you should be.

The Jesus and Gary chain: Speziale in Ridgewood, Queens
photo: Brian Kennedy
The Jesus and Gary chain: Speziale in Ridgewood, Queens

What a charming Italian Polish neighborhood this is—a hobby shop and little blond brick buildings, but you have to take the M train to Fresh Pond Road. The models say, "Oh God, I never took that train before." They like it when they're here. They're used to posing in dirty, cold, nasty studios. I'll go to the European Coffee Bar here and sketch. I'm like the mascot of the coffee shop. No, I don't ask the local people to model. I really like working with local people but I just don't want to go up to them. I wanted to put an ad in the local paper but the paper wouldn't take the ad. I said I have a long track record with you. When I lived in Ridgewood from '89 to '94—[He had moved to Ridgewood a second time in '97 to the apartment he is in now.]—I have receipts for the ads. I showed them my receipts.

Tell about the exploding radiators. In '97, my friend and I moved into an apartment in Ridgewood before I got this one. We weren't even unpacked and all the radiators exploded when they turned on the heat for the first time. We were out until two in the morning but everything was destroyed. The room was full of steam. The only solace was that a lot of my work was in a show at the time. When I moved here, this entire apartment was the color of Gulden's mustard, high gloss tempered by a lot of cigarette smoke. A prison guard lived here. My friend and I first moved in together. I love her dearly, but two designers—it didn't work. We'd have knockdown, drag-out fights over paint colors. She moved.

Where are you from? Edison, New Jersey. First I did the living room in really dark olive. I went from there to the clean studio, all painted in blue grays. I was going for the Medici Chapel. The dropped ceiling has inscriptions all around it—"To be with art is all we ask." That's from Gilbert and George, the photographers. The bedroom has: "Don't ever forget—not never—that Jesus Christ is your savior." My friend's grandmother told her that when my friend was going off to law school. The "not never" is very Sicilian.

The kitchen is gray green. You want the Martha Stewart paint names—Georgia Mist, Quaking Aspen, Porch Ceiling Blue. I really prefer her paint. I could be the salesman for her. It's cheap. It's exactly the color they say it's going to be. Even when the little kid at Kmart is mixing the paint, it comes out on the money. The hall is Apple Butter, Driftwood, Mercury Glass on the ceiling. That's the best color because you can put any other color near it and it's completely changeable. The bathroom will either be Egyptian bulrushes or something neoclassical. But I can't do the bathroom until I graduate. Here are my file folders—green for the bills. Yellow—clippings. Red—the house. Orange—the art. My friends will say, "Can you help me with my apartment?" They're doing it beige. I say—Drama, not Dramamine.


schlesinger@villagevoice.com

 
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