Three days prior to Christmas, before I embarked on an afternoon of last minute shopping, I stopped in for a lovely gallery visit at the invitation of my dear friend Janet Cook. Janet had two gorgeous lithographs on view at the Alex Adam Gallery on W. 120th Street in Harlem’s historic Morris Park district. Other works included various prints, oil paintings, and drawings by artists I have known and admired for years, among them Donna Skebo, Benat Iglesias Lopez, Tai Lin, and Eleanor Adam, whose son was the inspiration for the gallery’s founding. He died of cancer at the age of 23. The Alex Adam is located in a wonderful old brownstone. It consists of artists’ studio spaces with a shared exhibition area upon entering the building. That day it was adorned with a festive Christmas tree:
At one point Janet informed me that there was a painting of me on the premises but not on display. Intrigued, I went to check it out. So I walked downstairs to Eleanor Adam’s studio area and, lo and behold, a huge canvas painted by Alex Cox, my old pal from the National Academy, was leaning against the wall, amid paper plates, cups, and art supplies. I remembered that painting well. It was created in Mary Beth McKenzie‘s class at the Academy around five years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me at the gallery, so I had to take a Blackberry pic which doesn’t do it justice:
A bit of a story surrounds this painting. It became a model “double” purely by accident. Both Peter and I had showed up on the first day of class, expecting to pose. After some confusion, we learned that the school had double booked us by mistake. So since it wouldn’t have been fair to send one of us home, and cause one model to subsequently lose a ten-day booking, the class got to have two models for their composition. Everyone was thrilled and more than willing to take on the challenge. Then, as I was undressing, the class monitors took note of my black slip and asked if I would pose in it. I was happy to oblige.
Alex’s painting was later accepted into the year-end student show at the National Academy, where it attracted a lot of attention. I asked Alex if he would send me a photo of the painting so I could post it on the then-newly launched Museworthy. I wanted to use it for a discussion of modeling in doubles. Alex assured me he’d send it. “I promise, Claudia. I’ll send you a picture”. And of course, he forgot! Within a year Alex had disappeared, to where I wasn’t sure. Probably the Art Students League But this painting was in storage at the Academy. I used to pass by it all the time and was tempted to pull it out of its slot and take a picture myself. But I didn’t.
Eventually, the painting disappeared, Alex was still MIA, and I forgot about the whole thing. Fast forward to the Alex Adam Gallery, where this painting, long lost in an unaccounted for, migratory mystery, is leaning there against the wall. We meet again old friend! Now the story as I understand it is that the painting was in a studio space, and then another studio space that Alex was sharing with another artist, I think. Word got around that the studio was being vacated. Eleanor found out that this painting was available for anyone to just take away, so she did. And the model comes face to face with it purely by chance. I’m glad Eleanor rescued it from an uncertain fate.
In conclusion, Alex Cox is gallivanting around Italy with his new bride, the Alex Adam is a thoroughly charming and inspiring venue of art in upper Manhattan, and I am still a full time artist’s model, immortalized on canvases throughout the city – on walls, in studios, in basements, attics, second hand stores, sometimes forgotten, sometimes reemerged to see another day