MERYL MEISLER

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ARTIST'S STATEMENT

Meryl's series “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco” is an intimate journey through the pandemonium and ecstasy of New York City from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Meryl documents a tumultuous time in the city’s history marred by epidemics of crime, addiction, and AIDS, intensified by a paralyzing blackout and political and fiscal crises. Frequenting Manhattan’s legendary discos that arose from the disorder, she captured hedonistic havens patronized by celebrities and revelers of the night. In contrast, daylight revealed the beauty of those who loved and thrived in burnt-out Bushwick, where Meryl worked as a public school art teacher and continuously documented her surroundings.

Meryl’s effervescent photographs are a personal memoir - love letters filled with compassion, humor, and angst as well - kept secret for decades until she retired from teaching. Meryl was headed to Studio 54 the night of the ’77 blackout, and the next day, she and much of the world first heard of Bushwick - a hellish neighborhood where fires and looting had erupted. Later in 2013, at BIZARRE (a Bushwick drag/burlesque nightclub), Meryl noticed a disco ball in the restroom along with another above the dance floor. This was an epiphany. Bushwick was now THE sizzling club scene, and in her mind the disparate worlds of Bushwick and disco collided becoming intertwined strands of NYC’s story and her own journey. This is when Meryl realized her photographs of Manhattan nightlife and Bushwick daylight belonged together.

Meryl’s two previous internationally acclaimed books, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick (2014) and Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City (2015) were just the top of the iceberg. The artist continued to dig into her archive, finding hidden treasures. Her new book, New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco (Parallel Pictures Press 2021) takes an unexpected turn from clandestine clubs to the classroom where students and staff create a safe space to learn despite societal ills of poverty and prejudice. Meisler’s street photographs radiate with the joys of daily life in contrast to a background of hardship. The nightlife images expose the edgiest, darkest activities the artist has shared to date. Flash forward four decades, and Bushwick is a hub of new music, art, fashion, literature, nightlife, and creative thinking. However, many bemoan the gentrification of neighborhoods like Bushwick. There is a nostalgia and sorrow for what is lost in the process of change.

Meryl lives and works in New York City and Woodstock, NY, continuing the photographic memoir she began in 1973 – a uniquely American story, sweet and sassy with a pinch of mystery. Her work is represented by ClampArt.

LOCATION

New York USA

CAMERA

Graflex Norita (1970s & current), Minolta SRT101 (1970s), Canon Sure Short (1980s), Pentax K 1000 (1970s & 1980s), Pentax 6 x 7 (2001-2019, needs repair), Fujifilm X 100 (current)

CATEGORY

street, documentary

WEBSITE

@MERYLMEISLER

INTERVIEW WITH MERYL

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by Meryl Meisler

by Meryl Meisler