New York Observer

It turns out, there still is a boatyard at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. You just have to go there to find it.

Pamela Talese, who painted the above painting and 19 others of the Brooklyn Navy Yard now up at the Atlantic Gallery, started going there because she was being hassled wherever else she went. “I was painting things that represented different kinds of working-class aspects of the city. And then 9/11 happened, and the types of things that I was painting–bridges and gas tanks–suddenly made people very nervous,” she told The Observer. “I wanted to be in a walled city so I wouldn’t be hassled either by the lunatics of Coney Island or the police.”

So for the past two years, the plein air painter (who also happens to be the daughter of writer Gay and publisher Nan), has been riding her fold-up bike from her home in Long Island City out to a corner of New York most of us only see from the Manhattan Bridge. She tries not to be too nostalgic about New York’s industrial heritage–the Navy Yard is one of those places where the Bloomberg administration sees a future for a blue-collar economy, after all–but it is hard not to be.

“They make luxurious things there like movies and things that people value but there is not a lot of flash there,” she said. “The brilliant thing visually is that there are no billboards, no chain stores, a lot of brick, which makes it tremendously different.”

New York Times

Pamela Talese’s small, quietly observed works, painted from life, honor the plein-air tradition that many assume to be dead by turning to industrial subjects and pushing the style slightly toward documentary photography. Fittingly, they record a dying phase of New York history: the piers, buildings, cranes and docking equipment of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, along with tugboats, fireboats and ships in and out of dry dock.

The subjects have all seen better days, but the images are not nostalgic. And despite the paintings’ documentary aspect they clearly could not be photographs; they record places of honest work in part by exemplifying it. They are carried by an unforced accuracy abetted by a subtle color sense and straightforward surfaces that are neither finicky nor juiced up.

The total effect is unexpectedly convincing, all the more so because each painting is accompanied by a brief text explaining its subject. The added information suspends this work somewhere between a belated W.P.A. project and a conservative variation on Conceptual Art’s image-text combination, by now a tradition of its own.