This Side of Paradise

Sylvia Plachy took the photographs in this room for an article written by Vivian Gornick for The Village Voice, published July 16 -22, 1980. The images capture the lives of the residents at this time, showing them at their social hour, reading, or in silent contemplation. We can glimpse here a little of the elegance of the time, the ladies with their hair coiffed and gentlemen in suites and ties. Plachy also captures the melancholy of old age, the loneliness that can be felt even in communities. In Plachy’s words:

Room 246 is my homage to those who once lived here in the the Andrew Freedman Home, a place built for aging capitalists who have fallen on hard times. I came here to photograph in January, 1980 while on assignment for the Village Voice. I was compelled to return a few times after that and regret that it wasn’t more.

I was drawn to the gentility of the residents. They charmed me. They were haunting even then. They were so much like my grandmother and people I knew as a child in Hungary, who’ve also had hard times, but they dressed for dinner, conversed, read and played cards under the dim lights chandeliers to keep the dark away. Eventually the Foundation collapsed and the home disintegrated.

My installation is a recreation the way I remember the rooms. Some of the furnishings were found here and some came from friends and my home. On the walls, in the midst of paintings from the time, are my photographs of the rooms and the people who lived in them that January. The reprint of Vivian Gornick’s brilliant article is here to read and Ed Towney compiled the music taken from vinyl 78’s to fill the room with music we both love and the residents would have listened to. Please come and stay a little to feel their presence.