Crews destroyed an old department store, revealing the face of an unusual parking garage. Then a new building went up, and the revelatory view disappeared once more.
Michael Angelis watched it all happen, and captured it on canvas.
Angelis saw the evolving views on Church Street because he has an artist’s studio across the street. He saw crews demolish the empty old Macy’s department store. He saw a new vision of Paul Rudolph’s controversial and ambitious design of the Temple Street parking garage (read about that here) leap into view. Then he saw crews build a new home for Gateway Community College on Macy’s grave,
Angelis specializes in capturing those in-between moments of evolving urban landscapes.
A magician might entice an audience with the words, “Now you see it; now you don’t.” Angelis entices the viewer with the promise: “Now you don’t see it; now you do.”
He put some of those moments on display this past weekend in his workspace inside the old 37 Church St. office building, where a number of terrific local artists opened their doors for the annual City-Wide Open Studios studio crawl.
Angelis, who is 36, was born with just one, partial arm. That has not stopped him from developing into a skilled painter. He earned his masters in art education from Columbia University in 2005, then came to New Haven from Brooklyn (via Fairfield County) in 2007. He was just in time to watch his new home city undergo a dramatic change of landscape.
He just missed watching the old New Haven Coliseum implode. But he saw the blocks surrounding his downtown studio evolve dramatically.
He was especially intrigued by the transformation of the old Macy’s lot. He saw the individualized concrete “pods” of the Rudolph garage’s upper decks form a new canvas for viewers. “This was a temporal moment. Each one of these pods like a different canvas,” he said. “Each one of those pods became a little vignette.” He began with a 12- by 18-inch study of the evolving view. He ended up with a large, unforgettable piece entitled Gateway College Construction Site.
Compare his take to the view a photographer chose of that temporal scene: JoaAnne Wilcox’s Deconstructing Macy’s, which captured metal sheets seemingly flapping in the wind like unsold slacks. (Read about that here.)
Angelis went for a less literal title, and perhaps a less literal view, when he decided to paint another temporal scene from the evolving New Haven landscape: the construction of a new stretch of I-95 leading to a rebuilt Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. He called this piece Stonehenge: Morning Light. Working from photos taken when the cross-beams were put in place, he decided to paint in the trusses in one of the new lanes from the I-95/I-91 merge, then to leave them out in the other lanes. That added to the “temporary” feeling of the moment, he said.
“That’s another aspect of the temporary nature of these sites. There’s a road bed over it now,” he said. “Here you can still see through the sky.”