A visit to Coney Island in 2010 and hundreds of photos later, I began painting the Wonder Wheel while studying portraits with my friend, and portrait artist, Laurel Stern Boeck. Laurel said, “You grew up in Coney Island, you love it, why don’t you paint images as an art project?” I took her suggestion and ran with it. Half a hundred paintings later, Susan Gilgore, Director of Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, invited me to exhibit my work at the museum. My project will be installed on July 9, 2016. Art bash to be held on Thursday, September 8, 2016, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
A sultry day in Brooklyn, you can see the heat rise up from the streets, you can smell the heat, it’s like dancing in a frying pan. Kids in my day didn’t open up fire hydrants, they gathered their friends and bathing suits and went to the beach. A walk across the street, climb the stairs and catch the train (BMT) to the beach. Coney Island, Surf Avenue—last stop.
On the walk from the train station, we stopped for nothing, the quest for sea and sand took precedent. Later, on our way home, came the fun foods, a bite of Nathan’s hot dogs, Chow Mein on a roll and sugary cotton candy that melted in your mouth. Custard with sprinkles; piled high on a cone, you couldn’t lick fast enough as it dripped down your arm.
We paid frequent visits to Coney Island, at first mostly to visit my grandma. I fell in love with this playland, this dreamland, a place of make-believe and fantasy, like imagining being Cinderella.
My friends loved the famous Cyclone, a ride I dared to take. The ride moved me to frightening frozen tears. Never again, twice in my lifetime was twice too many. We took pictures of ourselves in picture booths, went to the freak shows, the house of wax, the animal nursery, restaurants—like Child’s on the boardwalk—rifle ranges, push cart rides and parades.
I swam in the briny Atlantic, bobbled floating over the waves, cooled off and played under the boardwalk, and watched the fireworks on Tuesday nights. I belonged to Washington Baths where I swam in a huge salt-water pool, dived from the low diving board. No one complained about stinging eyes from the chlorine, but mine were sure red after all those hand stands under water. I sunned myself on the private beach. When I got there in the mornings, I left my friends on the beach, donned my glove and played blackball on the Washington Baths handball courts. The experienced, intelligent men were super competitive. I did well, but I think those seniors went easy on me; they kept calling me pretty girl. Hmm, I wonder?
I will never forget the polio scare. Kids were dropping, and we all thought we were going to get sick. I didn’t, and none of my friends got sick. We were lucky. The Polio scare didn’t deter us, we kept on coming to Coney Island.
Finally in 1952, I got the Salk vaccine.
My Coney Island paintings can be viewed at www.gailingis.com.