A RTISTS CREATE SELF-PORTRAITS WITH ALL KINDS OF MEDIA, but this may be the first time that three-dimensional miniature replicas of buildings have been used.
Although Albert Chailosky’s exhibition,
“Lost but Not Forgotten,” at the Sanibel Island Dunham Family Gallery in BIG ARTS, consists entirely of buildings, they are actually “a way for me to do self-portraits, an autobiography,” he says. “Each of these buildings (contains) a personal story, a story about me.” He calls his work miniature cityscapes. There is the newsstand at the entrance to the metro where he got his daily newspaper, the canteen where he took his cup of coffee from the ubiquitous blue, white and gold Greek paper cups. (It was before Starbucks, he notes.) The restaurant where he and his wife ate every weekend, Pearl Paints in SoHo, where he bought his art supplies.
“There is a little story next to each (building) and you can read the story and my personal anecdote about it. It will give you an idea of the place, and what it was like for everyone in New York, and an idea of me too.
“When you’re done looking at all 13 pieces, you get a sense of who I am, and a sense of that time period too,” he says.
At the end of the exhibit there is a replica of the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, where he first broke his nose. (His nose, Mr. Chailosky notes, was broken a total of three times). A splash of tropical color among the grays and sand is a hint to his next project: creating miniature representations of various buildings in other places he has lived: Miami, Rhode Island, Ohio.
“Lost but Not Forgotten” has three layers, he says.
First of all, with the exception of one track, this is a historic tour of New York from 1990 to 2001.
Second, he says, “each has either architectural significance – like a cast-iron building in SoHo, or an iconic building, something socially iconic in New York, like CBGB, which was the epicenter of punk rock” .
And third, it no longer exists or its purpose has been changed.
“It’s a way for me to do a self-portrait, an autobiography,” he says. “For each of these buildings, I have a story about myself. Maybe it’s a place I’d like to go to drink every day, or a certain restaurant.
Maybe that’s where he grabbed a coffee every day, or the daily newspaper. Or a building in front of which he would walk to work.
“It’s a three-dimensional world of what my life was like in New York,” he says. “It’s a history lesson, an autobiography of the artist and a sense of remembering a certain place and a certain time. What they all have in common: nothing exists anymore. They have been torn down, destroyed or turned into something horrible.
“For example, the Mars Bar, which used to be the best dive bar, is now a stock brokerage firm of TD Waterhouse.”
then and now
As a young boy, Mr. Chailosky came to New York from Cuba, but moved to Miami Beach with his family when he was 7 years old.
He left Florida to attend art school at the Rhode Island School of Design, then returned to Florida to try to earn money for his higher education.
At an art fair in Coconut Grove, he showed his cityscapes and sold them all. Famous producer/director Harold Prince, winner of 19 Tony Awards, came to his booth and congratulated him on his work. The two started talking and went out to dinner.
Mr. Prince liked Mr. Chailosky’s work so much that he arranged for him to get a full scholarship to New York University for his MFA. He also arranged for Mr. Chailosky to assist six-time Tony Award-winning set designer Eugene Lee on various shows for Mr. Prince.
And because Mr. Lee was the original production designer for “Saturday Night Live,” Mr. Chailosky helped him there as well, particularly on construction sets for the fake SNL commercials.
It was an invaluable experience.
Today, Mr. Chailosky is back in Florida, this time on the Gulf Coast in Fort Myers. He works in the fashion industry but has returned to creating his miniature landscapes after a 17-year hiatus, as he and his wife are now empty nests and he has more free time.
Everything is done by hand, he says. Nothing is made by a 3D printer or a computer, except for the magazine covers, candy wrappers and cigarette advertisements he embeds in his newsstands. (He slavishly researches what was on sale that day, to make it historically accurate.)
Miniaturists will build dollhouses and then decorate them with pre-made furniture and objects. Mr. Chailosky creates everything from scratch, from Venetian blinds in a window to fire hydrants to chewing gum dispensers outside a candy/luncheonette store.
He even pays attention to litter on the street – from misplaced cigarettes to crushed coffee cups – and graffiti on the sides of buildings and subway cars. It is as if he had built a machine capable of reducing a real building to miniature.
“Lost but Not Forgotten” is “like walking through an autobiography of my life and what I loved to do,” he says, “intertwined with the nuances and characteristics of New York.” ¦