By the river fumes: Painters gather to render Gowanus Canal

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And for my next work, I present “Condom, floating with dead rat.”

Artists flocked to the banks of the Gowanus Canal on Sept. 27 to commit the pollution-laden waterway to canvas. The gathering of painters and doodlers was meant to give unfettered expression to the fetid inlet, the organizer said.

“Seeing the landscape through the eyes of artists is a great way of looking at the canal,” said Jessica Dalrymple, a Greenwood Heights artist and volunteer coordinator with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “You can really see the potential there for a beautiful landscape.”

The Conservancy works to clean up the area surrounding the canal, including planting and caring for trees and plots of greenery that help keep toxic runoff from further polluting the federal Superfund site.

Dalrymple said she organized the painting day to connect the group with Gowanus’s artistic community.

“I just wanted to get as many people as possible there and see what happened,” she said.

Dozens turned out to sketch or paint the canal, some from as far away as Connecticut and New Jersey, she said. One participant said the art-in was a way of capturing the industrial detritus of the area before it is replaced with shiny condos.

“The canal is an unusual piece of urban landscape,” said Jennifer Roberts, a Jersey City painter and pal of Dalrymple. “It is sure to get developed in the future, so this was a nice opportunity to get a different perspective of it.”

This isn’t the first attempt by artists to channel the foul channel. Last year Red Hook artist Mie Olise communed with the noxious canal by shoveling up black sludge from its bottom to paint with.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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