The Atmosphere Was Electric


Location Soho

Rent $1,100 (sublet in condominium)

Square feet 400 (two-room apartment in tenement)

Occupant Stuart Rosenthal, a/k/a Stuart Ross (artist; physics and earth science teacher, High School for Leadership and Public Service)

Green martians! This sculpture’s called Fitting In in Williamsburg. See, it’s the aliens trying to fit in.

All these wall sculptures—here’s a diorama of a mysterious forest with mulch and a cabin with a blinking light. I call it Alone. It’s a guy defending his home from invaders. This one’s American Prison—Coke bottles, a photo of young girls. The prison is the youth of women being exploited. We’ll never be that young and that thin.

Ah, I see the barbed wire. Now over here, in the kitchen, let me give you the show. I threw out the stove. Why have decaying food with so many great restaurants around?

You live over Rocco. That’s where the waiter makes flat motions with his hands when he describes the veal. Oh, your walls, lights blinking, machine parts moving. What a mad, mad world! Here is War. You’re on a ship, looking out to sea, going to battle. The red light is almost dotted with blood. The motion is hypnotic. A lot of people have to take Dramamine before they come here to prevent nausea.

Whoa. Now we’re looking at digital photos on your computer—small wooden blocks with mysterious drawings stuck on poles. Hey, that pole’s in Soho near Prada. I like to share my art with the community. I often mix technology and wood. It’s free art for the public. I’ve been around—Queens, Upper East, Upper West.

Now I’m sitting on the swing in your kitchen, like the Fragonard painting. Kick back. You can get a very therapeutic motion. The bathroom is in progress. I’m a dumpster diver in the industry. I’m just a very big fan of red—red lights, red tinsel. I have things from my travels to Asia.

A rubber lizard. I wanted to go with the tropical sort of voodoo island look.

Can we sit on the chairs a minute? I keep falling off this swing. I put two disco balls outside this window. This place gets no direct sun. From about 11 to three, if it’s sunny, the light will hit the disco balls. I got the apartment six years ago through my friend’s father in Queens. I was born and raised in Flushing. I’ve been teaching eight years. Before that I tried to start my own office equipment cleaning service. I had gotten out of college, SUNY, and then it all hit, the horror.

What horror? I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. My family are hardcore Jews from Queens. Teaching was not a respectable profession even though I was teacher of the year. My father said I could only be three things, a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant. I realized later that he threw in accountant because he was one. Ever see Boiler Room? That’s my family, our house. I had a show here, in my apartment. My father came. He said, “That’s very creative.” At 15, I came in third place in the Duracell contest. You had to build a device with a Duracell battery. I built a “credit card key lock with alarm.” It was like the magnetic key cards you now get in hotels.

Ahead of your time. Are you going to make more and more electric-sculpture inventions? See that swing? I would like to have an indoor amusement park, motors lifting you up. Oh, I’ve got so many ideas. I love projectiles and weapons. I have a desktop catapult where you can shoot little balls at the person next to you.

That big hammer you’re holding is scary. Don’t be scared. I’ll put it over here.

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