Living

NY Mirror

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Location: Soho

Rent: $630 (rent stabilized)

Square feet: Approximately 375

Occupant: Kim Connerton (artist; photo stylists’ assistant; window display, Barneys and Bloomingdale’s; art teacher, Washington Market, a Montessori school)

You live on the street of dreams! It’s that part of Soho that looks like a stage set of a street in a 1950s movie— particularly if there was a dream sequence with Leslie Caron. There’s the Stork Club, a store where there was once a glamorous black and shocking pink pants suit in the window— though the outfit was only one and a half feet long. Then there are all the bistros with south of France flower boxes and distressed green chairs and of course the bakery with mustard walls where they play 1930s Cuban music and the metal chairs have hairpin feet that look like they’re dancing, which brings to mind La Habañera, the Douglas Sirk film where these cold Germans go to Puerto Rico, but that’s another island. . . . I love Once Upon a Tart. I’m always there. I eat the blueberry muffins. I used to eat their currant buttermilk scones. But I had those for two years in a row. I’m also friends with the folks in the Tibetan store. I sometimes do their window display. I love this street. I got the apartment because someone was moving to St. Louis.

You came here in 1991 from Philadelphia. Then, the usual— six apartments in four years. The best was Tribeca. I was very much in love. We had a great deal, 800 feet for $700. He doesn’t live in this country anymore. Then I had two places in Park Slope. In one, the light came flooding in a 12-foot window but I had to take my landlord to court. He’d turn my heat off on the coldest days and he was lonely and wanted to stop by for attention. It says in the lease you have to call the tenant first. It was in Williamsburg— $350 to share 3000 square feet— where I really felt at home as an artist. It was raw enough that I could work on the floor, get things messy, though my roommates were pissed I’d get glitter in the cracks. I’d walk out my door and everybody was an artist. Some people think that’s too much, but I liked the camaraderie, going to the L Cafe and writing for hours. I moved because, well, I’m happy living alone.

Your walls are full of your paintings of faces that all look like you. Now you have a space about as big as that one-and-a-half-foot pants suit. But who cares— space is only the interval between points and objects. You just have less intervals between the futon and the shower and the stove and the lightbulbs and the pliers and the stuffed animals covered with glitter on your blue painted wood floor. I’m lucky I have this space in this neighborhood. I’d like to have a separate studio. Right now I want to make this work. I’ll do my work no matter what else is going on in my life. I adjust to the space.

Paintings themselves can create whole other rooms. A person can look at a painting of a forest and step into it and wander and become oh so lost among the hollyhocks. Wasn’t it Gaston Bachelard— I can think of no one else these days— who wrote about the elasticity of space? I recall now, “The space we love is unwilling to remain permanently enclosed. It deploys and appears to move elsewhere without difficulty; into other times, and on different planes of dream and memory,” which then led me to my own philosophical wanderings, ahem, that one’s sense of space can change like the sea, expand when one is happy, in love, and/or gets a MacArthur genius grant. Then all things seem possible and a small place becomes a huge palace with thousands of rooms and thousands of closets full of thousands of clothes. Then, when something terrible happens, the world becomes very small very fast, big lead doors start slamming down all around until the space is only as large as the perimeter of one’s body, and even that begins to push inward and there are no clothes anymore, no food, all space is gone. It is the claustrophobia of disaster. I hope that doesn’t happen. I’ve been feeling pretty high lately.

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