This week on The Street Where You Live I’m proud to introduce artist Caris Reid, who lives on the edge of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, and whose paintings adorn the walls of many an art-loving New Yorker. I crushed on Caris from the moment we met, but our friendship was sealed when, two years ago, she approached me and asked sweetly if she might be able to paint my portrait for her series "Hothouse Flower". This was the painting (the first time I saw it I burst into tears). Doe of eye and lion of heart, Caris rescued me from the rain last weekend with buckets of hot ginger tea, not to mention a slew of soulful observations and wise decorating advice. Her beautiful home is just like her: thoughtful, stylish and artistic. Let’s take a stroll down the street where she lives.
On her apartment:
We live on the second floor of three story railroad apartment building. My favorite thing about our street is how close it is to my studio! And to groceries! It's a six minute walk from my apartment door to my studio door!. And The Meat Hook, which has the most amazing sausage selection (the beet sausages are delicious) is across the street from my studio.
On her fiancee, street photographer Noel Camardo
I live with my fiancé, Noel. We moved in together after only dating for four or five months. It seemed impulsive at the time, but it was one of the best decisions I've ever made, He's a wonderful roommate, and much better about doing the dishes than I am! He always plays beautiful music around our apartment, and we do a lot of cooking together. He has great taste, luckily, but tends to collect more things than I do- the first two years of living together was a slow process of convincing him that the large branches, rocks, unframed artwork, fishing rods, and vintage tin can collection might look better in his studio than our apartment. His marble table and photographs were welcome to stay.
On living in one of the last ungentrified blocks in Williamsburg
People assume Williamsburg is all hipsters and condos. Well...some of it is...but not so much on our block. Our two block radius is still very heavily Italian, with a lot of residents who have been living here for decades, including an old man down the street who does his nightly walks with his cane and cigar. After a year of passing him on the sidewalk, he started smiling at me, which is infinitely adorable. Around the corner is a bakery called "The Blue Stove" that makes a killer pot pie and in the summer there's a woman who sits in front of it saying "Have a nice day" to every single person that walks by, for hours. Whenever Noel and I walk past her, we try and say "have a nice day" to her before she says it to us, but she's quick! I'm a little bit obsessed with (and frightened of) an older woman who lives a block down. She has roses that bloom in front of her house in the spring and summer and she sits behind them and stares out quietly at the world. It's easy to miss her, but she's always there, watching. She's most definitely a witch.
On styling her apartment (her advice: edit edit edit):
Things I love in my apartment- the old fashioned tin ceilings, the big sink, the natural light. It feels quite charming (though it would be nice to have a sink actually in the bathroom). My approach is always to keep things minimal. Noel jokes that every time he brings something in, I make him get rid of two things! So editing is really important. Other than that, my advice is simple really, keep things minimal, have lots of plants and art. All of the art in our apartment was made by ourselves, our friends or our family. Good art can truly elevate a space. I love being surrounded by objects made by people we love. In addition to our artwork, we have several wooden stools in our apartment made by Noel's dad, Gary, from his company Rosewood & Birch. They make me happy.
On being an artist:
Making art has always been a huge part of what I do. In terms of how I became an artist, I think all of us begin our childhood making lots of art but it peters out once you hit middle school. Most people stop, but I never did. It’s that simple. My family did a lot of moving through out my childhood...living in Washington D.C, Chicago, Boston, Austin, and Dallas. I think when we first moved to Texas, it was a hard transition for me. I grew to have a distrust of the outside world a little bit (having said that, I love Texas today, I now see it as a a kind of step-mom that I initially hated but grew to love). At that time though, all my escapist tendencies were fired up. I used to have a pretend studio in my bedroom and imagine I was a real artist. When I’m painting I feel so expansive, but also so centered. I get lost. I lose sense of the here and now, and suddenly feel connected to something much bigger than me. Having said that, you cannot function in the contemporary art world without tenacity and discipline. It took time for me to figure out my schedule, which is ultimately about 5-6 days a week, 9-6pm with a lunch break. As an artist, no one knows if you show up. When you create boundaries, you enable yourself to release creatively somehow.
On finding ways to foster creativity in others:
I host collage workshops called "Collage with Caris" with a curated selection of vintage material. I host them monthly at The Oracle Club and ISA, and I’ve been doing them for about three years now. It fell into my lap, really, my friends Jenna Gribbon and Julian Tepper were opening The Oracle Club in Long Island City, and approached me about teaching a class there. I was still working as a nanny at the time but really ready for something new, so the timing was perfect. The class started gaining some momentum and attention, and I was getting asked to host workshops at other venues- it wasn't anything I had planned, but I just went with it. The communal aspect of the workshops are a great balance to my time alone in the studio, painting. I feel very lucky!
On her cute Italian landlady:
We have a Michael Schmelling photograph in our kitchen of a middle aged man laying down in a bed. Once our landlady was over and she gestured towards the photo and asked us "Whose that guy?". She seemed deeply puzzled when we explained that he wasn't a brother or father or a friend.
Describe your street in five words:
Quiet. Safe. Lost in Time.
When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
I'd like to say something whimsical and devotional here...I feel appreciative of what I have, but my heart tells me that my chapter here is ending.
On loving (and leaving?) New York:
I had dreamed of moving to New York since I was pretty young. All my romantic notions of what it was to be an artist and how an artist should live were attached to New York. I have diary entries from age 12 describing the "bohemian circle of artists and writers and poets" I would one day hang out with. I don't know how bohemian I am, but my friends are all artists and creative types. I live with a photographer, and I'm working as a painter. But I truthfully feel like my relationship to the city has changed over the past 10 years. It’s become so much more expensive for artists to rent studios, and harder for couples wanting to transition into the next stage of their lives. Owning anywhere in the city feels practically impossible. Also my idea of what an artist’s life is has expanded, and I'm starting to wonder if a quieter city would suit me better. I have wild fantasies of succulent gardens and hummingbirds. And sunshine.
On her perfect Saturday:
On Saturdays I like to stay in bed for as long as humanly possible. From there I'll drink my coffee, read the New York Times, obsessively check my Instagram, and maybe make a phone call. Then after several indulgent hours I'll get up and make an enormous meal with Noel. We'll then grab a coffee at Variety, our local coffee shop, and head to the city to see some art at galleries or museums. Then maybe grab dinner back in Brooklyn. When it's cold we love getting ramen at Suzume, and afterwards meeting friends for drinks at The Richardson or Hotel Del Mano. My Saturday basically revolves around art, eating and drinking.
All photos by the amazing Noel Camardo. Thank you, sweet Caris, for letting us troop through your beautiful home. If you're now crushing on Miss Reid in a big way, and I'm willing to bet you are, you can see more of her work on her website, and follow her on Instagram here.