Slaves of New York…..being an artist in the eighties……

Way before the advent of mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and all the rest of it, in what seems like a far off and forgotten time – ‘the eighties’ –  it seems that artists in New York and for that matter everywhere else lived a less complicated existence.

A friend and fellow creative in the States recently sent me this cartoon.     She said it reminded her of an art co-operative that I founded in the early eighties in West Chester, Pennsylvania…called Aartworks.      It made me smile broadly:)


This got me thinking about one of my favourite movies – Slaves of New York – a comedy based on Tama Janowitz’s best-selling collection of short stories that defined the downtown New York art scene of the 1980s.       It also reminded me of Aartworks…..

Eleanor – played by Bernadette Peters, is an aspiring hat designer who lives with her successful artist boyfriend.


The high cost of rents makes Eleanor and most of her fellow loft dwellers slaves to their relationships.    If they could afford to move, they could then move on….and focus on their own creative path.

SLAVES OF NEW YORK, Bernadette Peters, Adam Coleman Howard, 1989

SLAVES OF NEW YORK, Bernadette Peters, Adam Coleman Howard, 1989Although still plagued by the usual issues of making enough money to purchase art supplies, bread, cheese, a bottle of wine and pay the rent, I remember a much more exciting, colourful time when artists communicated through personal contact…..

Although still plagued by the usual issues of finding enough money to pay for art supplies, bread, cheese, wine and pay the rent, and of course dealing with the galleries and often quite obnoxious dealers,  I do recall that period as being one of high energy and creative pursuit.

Elanor in one of wonderful creations….my sort of fashion statement. 


As free as the atmosphere was in the eighties,…..galleries called the shots.    At that time no one could have predicted the advent of the internet and social media and what this would mean for artists of every medium.

I wish I had lots of photographs from that period and I am sure that somewhere many can be found.     Again it was pre digital camera…and so the cost and time of developing film was often too much for most artists, who were putting all their energy into creating new work.

This large oil on canvas – symbolic self portrait is from that time….The arm and hand holding the apple – signifying for me – ‘Yes I can do it’ – was sculpted by Janet Cleveland, a wonderful artist who could have been easily cast in Slaves of New York.    I can never look at this painting, without thinking of Janet and that lovely period.


A bientôt.

24 thoughts on “Slaves of New York…..being an artist in the eighties……

  1. Bushka

    Delightful post Janet….Looks and sounds like a Super Movie….Yes! Those were the days….in a sense much more ‘freedom’…… 😉 Have a delightful week. Hugs! ❤

  2. teagan geneviene

    What a truly delightful post, Janet. You share so much of yourself in these. The painting speaks to me and your proclamation in it comes through loud and clear. 🙂 I wasn’t familiar with SLAVES OF NEW YORK, but I like Bernadette Peters. Maybe I can find it somewhere. I love how they’ve costumed her for the part. Wishing you sunshine super hugs! And of course, hummingbird hugs. 😀

  3. Sammy D.

    I missed that movie – hiw I would have loved it! Although not part of the art scene, my friend and I made annual 80’s trips to NYC and walked miles while people-watching and shopping vintage stores in SoHo and Greenwich. I can only imagine and envy the camaraderie and misery-lives-company vibes of your art community. Once Times Square commenced renovation I never returned. No 70s or 80s urban areas will ever be improved (IMO) by our electronic environment. ‘Those were the days’

    I enjoyed hearing your delight as you talked about places and people from yesteryear.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you so much, Sammy…..and yes those were the days. We really did have so much more freedom. It’s almost impossible to believe what a different world it was….We were very fortunate to have experienced them….Enjoy the day..Janet:)

  4. Mary

    Really enjoyed your post about those earlier and very creative days for artists – I’ve not seen the movie, but your clips show Bernadette as perfectly cast for the role. Must have been fun reminiscing and revisiting those wonder years!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      It was a very special time, and we had so much more freedom than people do today. No security and technology….it was wonderful and I am grateful that I lived and worked as an artist through that time. You can order the movie through Amazon, and I would definitely recommend….Janet:)

  5. Peter Wells aka Countingducks

    This is one of those paintings you would sit in front of at a gallery for what might seem like hours, because there is so much in it. Complex and simple and beautifully articulate, it opens up meaning after nuance after meaning and is a real feast for the eye.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you, Peter for this lovely comment. I remember when it was exhibited years ago in the states…and I was playing ‘fly on the wall’ quietly observing people as they viewed the exhibit. Some of their interpretations of the painting were very interesting:) Enjoy the day..Janet

  6. snowbird

    How I enjoyed this! It sounds like a wonderful time despite the struggles, like your priorities, bread, wine and cheese, what more could a girl want! Looking forward to you finding those pics!xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      I know that there are pictures scattered around in other people’s collections…and one day they will surface. I also look forward to seeing them again….have a great beginning of the new work year:)xxx


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