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For the Unexpected Joys of a Planned Day Out and About: "Fort Gansevoort Gallery"

Arianna Huffington must be my fairy godmother. I religiously follow Huffington Post and it has provided me with more fascinating facts and things to do than any other resource I have, which is impressive considering I have more resources than the Library of Congress. It has become my daily bible of who goes where, to do what. The best part is it’s not just for New York. 

They are rare but there are times that I am unaware of an art exhibit that is opening in my hometown and I have not heard any mention of it. I read so many magazines, The New York Times daily, and am on Twitter nonstop. There isn’t much of the stuff I am interested in that gets past me. But when it does I immediately take action.

Such was the case two weeks ago. I was doing my usual perusing on the Post and stumbled upon the Fantasy Composites at the Fort Gansevoort Gallery that was open since November and set to close that weekend. I clicked on it to learn that this showing was compiled with works made as a creative outlet. The artist, Jason Harvey has been a professional N.Y.P.D. forensic artist for ten years.

That means he had been doing this longer than I was even aware this was a job or at least about the time I learned it was a crucial job from watching “Law and Order”.  It is unconceivable that there were times way back when that had to look for criminals without any type of photo or drawing. Even harder to imagine is how you take the image being described by a victim and draw something so life like the cops know exactly who they are looking for. More than just a drawing these images, once completed, come to life all by themselves. This is exactly what I felt walking through this gallery. 

I had another city outing planned the day I now refer to as my afternoon in the Meatpacking district. Once I saw some of the images and realized it was closing the next day after I could visit there was no decision to make. I was going one way or another. Besides the obvious talent I wanted to see up close, this was a one of a kind experience. I haven’t heard anything similar before or since. These are the moments where living in New York City is not even a question.

My day went like this:

• Hair salon from 8:30 am-11: 30 am in Brooklyn;

• Run around town for errands;

• Jump into car and head to Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (name has been changed to Hugh L. Carrey but I don’t like it) and race towards the West Side Highway; and lastly,

• Park the car in an Icon Parking garage a block from where I was meeting up with my party of four.

Oh and did I mention I was up until 2am that morning writing? This was just a regular day being me.

Jason Harvey is noting as saying: “It’s not a creative process, it’s a skill that I have”. Um yeah and Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book about a vacation she took. The fact that what one does and excels at changing other people’s lives in such a dramatic way astounds me. The fact that the artists themselves never see the big deal in their talent makes it all the more surprising. The art itself is mind-blowing. 

I hadn’t been to the Gansevoort area since I was in grad school and went partying with my friends and cousin downtown at the Gansevoort Hotel. Their rooftop bar was awesome and such a good place to chill. The drinks were like fifteen dollars apiece back then and I am talking like ten years ago. God know what they are now. It seems like a lifetime has passed by.

Back then hearing “Little West 12th Street” sounded weird to me. I was convinced I was giving out bad information to those I was meeting up with.

Boy have things changed. This area is now packed with restaurants, bars, shops, and art for sale all around these cobble stone streets. There were so many people walking and talking you could feel the energy of a pleasurable Saturday afternoon.

Across the street from the Gansevoort Hotel, which still looks the way I remember it, was my first destination; Fort Gansevoort Gallery. I knew the exhibit would be small and free to get into but I had no idea what the building would be like. I could not have been more surprised. It is a remnant of neighborhood’s past. This 1849 Greek revival house looks out of place in the middle of all that has been built up around it. You could definitely walk right past it if you aren’t careful. The inside however looks likes like a modernized version showing off the gorgeous distressed wood on the floors and stairs. The stairs are my favorite aspect of this space. They possessed the charm that had been there since the beginning.

The gallery has three floors so we went to the top to begin looking at the photographs. They were hanging on a white wall on the third and second floors. There was a couple of other people there but my group was consistently there as others came and went. I am sure we were also the loudest.

Once on the third floor I felt the photos beckoning me to come over. The simple setup allowed your eyes to be drawn to them and only them. The natural light from the windows didn’t take away from the details of the drawings. As I approached each one I felt compelled to get as close to them as possible. As if that would expose some hidden talent of their composure.

I don’t know what Jason used for inspiration but the people in these photos have to really exist. They have too much personality to have been a creation of his imagination. But if that is where they formerly lived than I am even more impressed by his talents. I have a feeling that all of the men and women he drew for the N.Y.P.D. have been caught. These sketches had more intricate details than I can see in my own face while looking in the mirror. I could have sat down and starred at them all day. Instead I took pictures of those pictures and kept it moving. 

As I was about to descend to the second floor I was called over to see a woman behind a table filled with colorful rocks. They looked like the rocks and crystals you see in museum gift shops. I had noticed them but didn’t see why I have to get a closer view. Once I did I couldn’t have been more surprised. It turns out these rocks were not gems. They were edible!! That’s right they were all candy that had been made organically and hand painted with sugar water. I couldn’t believe my eyes. After the gentlemen in front of me walked away my crew had this amazingly talented creator all to our selves so we did what was natural to us- pumped her for information!

Now just because I said rock and candy in the same sentence I don’t want you to picture the old school version of rock candy. These were not the kind I like having in my coffee when I go to Junior’s Restaurant. These are perhaps the most original ideas I have ever seen. Also they were delicious.

The candies came in all sizes, flavors, and colors. I settled on buying a small package that looked like rocks. They are actually delicious pieces of chocolate. Without some self-control I would have never had any left when I got home.

A fun note is that, Maayan Zilbrman, the woman behind this company (Sweet Saba), said that she had just shipped a whole bunch to California. The Golden Globes were that weekend and Sweet Saba’s finest were going into the goody bags. How cool is that?

From there we finished looking at the collection by Jason Harvey. In the corner of that floor we met the owner/creator of NOVA, Julie Zangrilli. NOVA is a collection of specialized perfumes. You could design a scent specifically for you or even pick out one based on your astrological sign. Even the small sized fragrances were better than anything else I have seen or rather smelled. The musk was so enticing I made my mother treat herself. That too was something we knew was too special to pass up. 

On the ground floor we were about to exit when the young woman behind that counter started a conversation with us. We realized she had all of these brightly colored powders in glass jars behind her and clothing displayed all around. I had been in such a rush to get to the drawing exhibit going in that I had not noticed anything as I walked by. 

Cara Marie Piazza, I found out, is a mix of a downtown hippie that has the same Italian characteristics we all share. It turns out she had a lot in common with my family. We joked and shared stories of the supernatural and about our lives. We were having such a good time I forgot that we were in the presence of a stranger in a place of business. When we came up for air after gabbing we noticed that Cara is a natural dyer with an interesting clothing line. All of the fabrics are organic and she can dye anything that you would like. The colors are so pure they are dyed the way our ancestors did. The possibilities are endless.

It is amazing how in an hour your whole world feels changed. Changed by things you didn’t know existed. Changed by how you see your future differently, better yet the way you imagined. The time I spent in this building did more for me than all of the self-help books in the world. As I talked to these three women I felt like I was in my element. I was out as a writer introducing myself, and my work to a bunch of new friendly faces. Suddenly I felt like I literally had the world at the reach of my fingertips. That feeling has remained with me coming through as I type this.

Secretly, or not so secretly now, my ambition is to write my own blog that runs on the Huffington Post. Either way I hope I am enticing someone to print out this information to plan a weekend of fun they didn’t know they had to experience.

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  1. Great day, so much to see in such a small area. Good find.


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