Richard Ozanne

  1959 -
  City of Birth:
St Louis
 
 

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Richard 's Story > Categories > Non-Fiction/Actual

"The New York Story of the Artist at the Art Students League" 

 

Date Range: 08/20/1983 To 05/20/1986   Comments: 2   Views: 6,826
Attachments: No
 

New York!
The New Domain of the Artist...
c. Richard Ozanne


I arrived very late in the afternoon on a flight from Tucson to La Guardia and then took a wild ride on a cab to the YMCA Studios on 63rd Street (West Side) where I had an arrangement to live for the coming months. There was a long line at the reception area as many people were clogging the area to pay for studio/rooms at the dorm. It somehow seemed I had gone from the small villiage to the big city that day. I was nervous and a bit out of line with the events that were happening that day..from La Guardia (getting ripped off by the cab that took me the long way through Harlem) and just getting to this point where I had to wait...and wait as the line only seemed to get longer, and the people ruder as they came in. I had 4 large packs of goods..as well as some studio equipment that traveled with me-a french easle and paints/canvases as well as normal goods.
Finally I got to the front of the line when someone butted up in front of me...just enough to get me mad...there was an abrupt "excuse me" and then he left. I took out my reservation number and put it on the desk and a time passed as this woman spoke at a million miles a second in a thick New York accent. "Excuse me?" She looked at me as if I came from a totally different world...and I did. We then went into the transaction of money. Folded in my wallet was 370.00 for the rent and another 100 for the security deposit which I pulled out and placed on the cashiers desk when "Whollop!" a fellows hand came down on the cash and his eyes directly met mine..."In this city brother you dont leave change out there..some one will grab it..or your going to be in trouble" he yelled from almost out of the blue. It was an abrupt and rather rude environment that I was settling into that day...nothing to say it was like a vacation hotel at all. I finally got things together and went up to my new room at the YMCA which was on the 7 floor (I think..its been a time since I remember) . It was a small room that had a bed, a small table, a television and slick and polished vinynl floors that had a deep gree tinge. The room looked out on the street that was shrouded by a brick parapet. It was positively nothing to anything I could describe..but it had to be my home for the time being. The people on the floor included students at Manhattan School, Julliard and various acting schools around NYC...but fresh I was as an artist in this environment.
The next day I enrolled in the program at the Art Students League on 57th street -7th Ave..which was only several blocks from the YMCA. I started classes that very same day and was introduced to my new monitors (those assistants that looked after the classes) as well as one of the teachers Mr. Robert Beverly Hale who just happened to be lecturing that day. I was introduced by Rosina D'Florio the director of the Art League.
Robert Beverly Hale was a gentleman and very distinguished individual who took special care of the students in his class and taught them a great deal in his critiques-anatomy lecturers as well as a sense of concern for individual students outside classes. I found it could be arranged to stay with several other students at his home if I couldnt find someplace else. I mentioned the YMCA and he kind of shrugged his shoulders..saying that there were other places more specialized for visual artists...and I think he had a gist of the environment there. After school I returned promptly to my room and settled in..but it was going to be a difficult situation at the YMCA. (One could sense a kind of rushed..dark energy that made one want to leave..but for me, at least for the next several months , was home.
In the next few days I started to have problems with my environment. Only the second day in New York I was going for breakfast at the cafeteria at the Y. I was hungry and ordered a full breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs...just enough to fill me because I didnt remember how to maintain a good diet at that time...only 145lbs at 24 years old. I grabbed my tray and went over to find a seat a little away from anybody else...this city thing was still a little jolt for me and I wanted to have some privacy. I had forgotton a napkin and fork...so, seeing the rack only a dozen steps away I went to it and grabbed the condiments only to return to my table.
There was a strange man who was eating my breakfast! He just dug right in! I was angry, but he enjoyed it looking up at me and smiling while I just got angry. He turned and smiled...the look on his face was one of sheer delight! "Its good! Do you want some?"
I looked back at him and saw he was hungry...just eating that meal with all the enjoyment of a persons first meal at the Ritz Carlton ever. I gasp..and I realized..this guy is hungry...I turned, and smiled and he waved back..I didnt have breakfast that day, but I will never forget how quick things happen in New York.
From that point forward there just seemed to be little but very sharp annoyances all around me. It started to get me angry. If it wasnt the guard at the door of the Y it was the chamber maid that seemed to ruffle through things..again getting angry. And then the parties that started about 10 pm and would get louder and louder in the hall outside my door. I complained, but did that stop it...no...it just made trouble.
I wasnt making a whole lot of friends my first weeks in New York. I can say that my first few months at the Y were pretty much a very unsettling issue. I decided to double-time with the amount of classes taken at the Art Students League. I would arise at 7am be at the League by 7:45-8/ have coffee and start classes. I would take morning-afternoon-late afternoon and evening classes coming home around 10 pm. 7-10pm, a long day of classes 7 days a week. I couldnt keep up with this schedual though. Although I had a scholarship for my studies it still was expensive because I had to somehow make up (money) for the extra classes that I was taking at the League.
Going back to the YMCA was a difficult proposition...the room was terribly annoying, and the people right smack in ones face.
I decided after the first week to invest part of my time trying to find a job in New York.
I suited up for one position at a gallery I found in the Villiage Post, and went down to interview. There wer 25 people in line for work there,and every one just a little more snarky and disagreable than the rest. They had us fill out all this paper work and then set up an interview. I was shocked that the pay for this one job was only $5.25 per hour,and was only part time, but I took it. How they worked us over the next week, carrying, lifting and organizing things..painting display cases, all in the most harried envionment I had ever witnessed...sheer energy.
By the time I was finished with this job I was tired. I went to school the next day...at 4pm I was getting dressed and off to the villiage for this job...to return at 10 pm back to the YMCA.
I did this for two weeks and then I began to realize that the staff around me was beginning to dissapear. One night I came in and the place was closed and windows pulled...a small note was attached to the inside of the door...Closed until furthur notice.
I wanted my check...they had stalled me off for two weeks! Another associate came by at that same time and was equally angry at the situation..but gave me a little courtesy to know that many of the gallery jobs would be just like this one. "One day you just come to work and there is no work...they have closed..and if you stay around long enough you might get fed the electric bill" he said.
This exact thing happened again..for the following week. It was a little less harried environment but the fellow who owned the gallery only needed help on call...at very difficult hours for me to attend the League.
I went back to my room...sweated a bit and cried allot. New York was a city to be reckoned with...and in its time. I made some phone calls and got a collector at the other end...he just told me to concentrate "fully" on my work, and exhibit if possible..but he would hold the fort (so to speak) for my exclusive study. "You can do the gallery thing if you want to at a later date...anywhere else. Your not in New York to have this work environment experience...to study yes, this is why your here!" he commanded, and I agreed. The third week I set out to classes and worked at my art...turning my small room into a studio.
Days and nights began to get as lonely as a visit to an ice station in the Antarctic, one could only imagine! New York has several heads to it. It is a deeply intellectual city and fun place if one is adventursome and already has friends. Alone..it is the pits. I remember one time I felt I needed to be saved from what I had described as a visit to Dantes Inferno...life in New York. I prayed an angel walk straight through the door and talk to me...as well as set me straight about this city, its art, culture and all the involvement of life. And this happened: An old cigar smoking fellow wearing a black smock and dark horned rimmed glasses came right over to me and started talking me...reading the riot act about the city, its culture and the people. It was then when I was a little more progressive in trying to get my artwork out there..seemingly tipped off about a new style of getting things done.
I proceeded to continually work at the Art Students League..attend classes/lectures when available at the league as well as Parsons, NYU or City College,School of Visual Arts..and finally get my feet wet for graduate school applying and being accepted at SVA, NYU..but opting for Columbia University as a special graduate student in Art.
New York was competitive on many levels...but when one was good it did matter, and during these times this really did seem to make a place setting.
It was a few months till I received my sea-legs so to speak and was operating at a higher level..but still not the highest that I felt I could achieve.
During the evenings I practiced at the YMCA or another piano which a friend had in reserve at an old theater down at times square. I would usually put in about 2 to 3 hours if I could fit it in without gathering too much attention. Sometimes I could fit one hour in and return to my room to complete paintings, working until the early hours of the morning. I was beginning to make contacts outside the school as well as some keen friends within the environment of the League and other places I would go to attend lectures etc. I kept reminding myself study..study...study and this is what I did...for the most part.
Some of my new friends were doing theater work or acting, others would be involved as writers preparing themselves for screen-plays or new and experimental writing techniques...and of course painters. It was not a big "hang out scene" then...we ususally met in the villiage talked over our lives for an hour or so and then went to a special lecture...or exhibition. Some times there were parties that we attended either in the villiage or on the East Side of Manhattan. These were experiences that were hard to come by, meeting artists, critics, and some of the legends that were still alive and living in the Villiage of New York at that time-Some of the interesting people I met were inspiring. I nearly tripped over some legends that we know today...there was Johnny Depp and he would go there, and Cristo..if in New York he could be seen there...One might find Studio 54 good for contacts with my friends if we could assume some sort of tickets go get in to an event, or rather find ourselves down in the Villiage talking art and laying criticism..there or at the West End Cafe. I met several influentials at the league...and Peter Falk quite by accident. There was this future star..and then that one...of course then working at Actors Workshop or leading some troupe for an off Broadway play. I look back and it was very interesting my time in New York from the position of student, and young professional artist...if it could be termed "professional" as a new world of art was transiting. I bumped into Warhol at one place and ______another. What could I say! This was New York...up the stairs...across and down the other side...fast and furious. I got my work in some shows..and was opting for more. I talked to many older artists and had wonderful enlightening as well as rather frightening conversations with them...usually not about art, but about other things. The exhibits were hopeful issues...each week another location in the city, and a hopeful sale. It was not about selling rather..it was about making art. I was told this by experience..and the experienced! 

Some of my teachers at the Art Students League Influential towards my art experience were:
David A Leffel (Painting-Classic) 
Thomas Fogarty Jr (Painting-Classic) 
Hugey Lee Smith (Painting)
Ted Seth Jacobs (Painting-Drawing) Night Classes
Robert Maione
Richard Pousette D'art
Terance Coyle
Robert Beverly Hale (Classical Drawing)
Gustave Rehburger
Revington Arthur (Summers study-1968-1986)

Art was about doing art...and I as an artist was doing just that as well as experimenting with new materials and techniques for exhibitions-if invited, but filling out the perspectus to Whitney as well as other engagements...should they choose my work in a very selective environment. Sometimes my work would be right out there! Other times it would be tucked away in an exhibition so far back that it had its very own corner and felt so isolated as to describe the farthest abyss that could every be reached...then Wammo! Right smack on a 57th Street Showcase..or at Cafe d'Artistes down in Wall Street. The work came and went. Many paintings were done..and some sold..others diminished to the backdrop of my studio.
In 83/1984 I moved out of the YMCA and went to have a studio offered to me above a pool-hall in Carrol Gardens Brooklyn with a group of other artists. Another studio was in Cobble Hill...at that time a rough and very very dangerous area where I had a full floor 2 bedroom at an amazing price..if I wanted to toughen up a bit, and see other parts of life...and live them just for a time. I later moved to Manhattan with the help of a friend who pulled me out of something of a stretch of the imagination living in a large garret with another artist...and having to risk my life every evening when I came home.
My apartment in Manhattan was at 808 West End Ave. The apartment/studio was 1008. It was quite a large apartment for New York that had high ceilings and was part of an artists building..Billy Joels manager living in the Penthouse. I loved my time here. (Stories)
My time of study in New York was fruitful, extending myself in the last 2 years to graduate school at Columbia University with study towards a Masters. And in the end I did receive that Masters degree for all of the  time, energy and education I received as well as energy spent.
I returned to Arizona in the fall of 1986 after the summer at Chautauqua to resume a program more suited to the art...an MFA with specialty in Studio Arts.
Over 3000 transcript/credit/contact hours were spent at the Art Students League, attending numerous class /lecture hours in New York City plus Graduate Program hours at Columbia University.. it should have been an easy transition to any program especially with references such as I had. When I left New York for Arizona..sometimes it felt like I had moved a century back in time...willing and hoping for progress, and making progress as time passed.



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Member Since
Aug 2007
Antje Wilsch said:
posted on Apr 23, 2011
New York

It seems that is a city that just chews people up and spits them out.... I could never live there. Energy is great, but utterly maddening.


Member Since
Oct 2008
Richard Ozanne said:
posted on Apr 23, 2011
Energy of New York City

A great training and proving ground---in the 1980's and before, By the mid-late 80's and up through the 90s (an I suppose now) Its mostly the same people doing the same thing over and over, not as innovative as it once was- I saw it got much more expensive and rather intolerant of 'artists', smacking up the rents and elevating 'Fire-Proof' Asbestos Suit factories (in lower Manhattan, once a great place for artists) into very high multi-drillion dollar condos for the posers who attended art school for a few days/month or a year  in order to receive their certificates (the city once granted living studios only to trained artists, this has become a matter of semantics (remembering one fellow-actually his art was lining up stones and taking photographs of them- prove to buy a great large studio in lower manhattan for 20K in an almost condemned building-yikes but it was large, it could hold many stones- which later sported Multi Million Dollar Studios to Urban Professionals (not necessarily for art)-Of course Im being very harsh on the changes because a great deal of what was in New York has moved on or become extinct partially due to the insistance of supreme upper power class logistics making a Disneyland out of the real---and disposing of the rest- Back in the 80's there was allot happening-some of it good, and a lot that was not so good, but most of all I do remember how good the schools still were, and how they had leverage, a sense of the real and being around the best that there were (The free-for-all didnt happen yet where everyone gets a degree and everyone is an artist)  Oh New York does chew people up--its known, but there used to be a time when it set a very high standard (some will disagree that it still does today-and this argument does hold true with the older schools with historys of fine teachers) It was a training ground where the best could meet someone better, and then someone twice as good as that! Whatever medium--- The energy was great too---You had every major person passing you every day, and there was a great deal of inspiration to- for hard work---but when that ended for me it was obvious, the writing was on the wall, other places have to be seen, and some places like Prague have been lessons that New York could never teach me---Its all about learing anyway!