Gowanus Open Studios 2016 brings Canal to life

The Gowanus Canal is the biggest photographic project of my life in Brooklyn. Gowanus Open Studios 2016 is October 14th through 16th.

Gowanus Open Studios 2016 brings Canal to life


For those of you wandering the canal area for the Gowanus Open Studios 2016, the Gowanus Canal is a unique destination. Anyone who knows me knows my fascination with the Gowanus Canal is the main photographic project of my life in Brooklyn.

I discovered the canal right after I moved to Cobble Hill in 1989. As a photojournalist, I always found long-term projects everywhere I worked and lived, and the Gowanus Canal became the longest project of my life and career. I have watched the area around the canal go from a no-mans-land to a hipster haven. Who would have thought that would happen?

Well there were many over the years who thought that way -- Buddy Scotto, who led the fight in the 90's; Lydia Buffington of the GCCDC; John C. Muir; Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. Now we are finally seeing the canal as it could be. A true gift in the heart of Brownstone Brooklyn.

Gowanus Jelly Fish © Mark D Phillips

Gowanus Carroll Bridge © Mark D Phillips

Gowanus Tulip © Mark D Phillips

Over the past 27 years, I have seen multiple attempts to clean the waters of the Gowanus. In the early 90s an attempt was made to begin using the flushing tunnel to bring clean water from Buttermilk Channel into the canal along with a program to dredge material from the bottom of the waterway. It didn't help. The pump soon stopped working and the canal fell into its stagnant position once more. Now the government has stepped up, declaring the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site.

The cheap rents, and the industrial spaces, created a haven for artists in Brooklyn. So we know it will become the next DUMBO because whenever the artists are in a neighborhood, the next thing to come is the developers. And the developers are arriving quicker than the clean up.

One of the newest developments, 365 Bond, is bringing 430 apartments to the bank of the canal. More than 56,000 people applied for the building's 86 affordable units. With a one-bedroom renting for $3,000 and higher, the Gowanus Canal's transformation into a river walk may take place at an accelerated pace.

The land beneath 365 Bond St. was cleaned up enough for what's called "restricted residential use" — meaning that only apartment buildings, not single-family homes, can be built there. That's because apartment residents are thought to be less likely to come into direct contact with contaminated soil than people who live in a single-family home, who might tend gardens or lawns. There's no law requiring renters to be notified that they're living atop a former brownfield, but they must be told that the building has an underground fan system that prevents indoor air contamination.

My body of work is directly related to the Gowanus Canal. There is beauty even in the horrible filth of the canal. I saw piles of abandoned bicycles and shopping carts in the muck at low tide, sheens of oil atop the water creating colorful patterns, and jellyfish and crabs plying the waters. Little by little, there have been moments of hope.

There were also moments of horror for what you found in its waters -- My newest "Story behind the Photograph" on MarkDPhillips.com, A Body in the Gowanus.

Today's Gowanus Canal is definitely up and coming. With new restaurants, clubs, ice cream shops and galleries lining its streets, it has become a destination location.

Gowanus Open Studios, or GOS, is an annual weekend event that takes place on October 14th through 16th.

Artists in the Gowanus neighborhood (and slightly beyond) open their studio doors and welcome the public to view art, meet the artists, learn about the process of art-making, and get a glimpse of the life of visual artists.

Visitors create their own self‐guided tours during this FREE event. The Arts Gowanus website (www.artsgowanus.org) features an Online Directory of Artists of all participating artists, more than 320, with samples of their art and includes an interactive map. Visitors can select artists to visit by perusing this directory and/or pick up a printed map throughout the neighborhood during the GOS 2016 weekend. Balloons and signs will identify each open studio building.


Click Here for Interactive Online Map and Guide

Here is a selection of Artists that captured my eye:


Kiley Ames: Fragments are defined as “isolated and incomplete parts of something.” I view fragments as the ceaseless amount of ideas and emotions in which people originate and through which relationships are formed. Some pieces come together easily, some overlap creating layer after layer of complexity, while others pieces break apart. But it is precisely that fragmentation which allows for new possibilities and concepts to emerge. My paintings and sculptures combine elements of existing in a state of reality with cohesion and connectedness, to the precariousness and imbalance within ones own self and in relation to others. I want my work to reflect both an emotional intimacy and instability where images vary between subtle and intense, confrontational and restrained, elegant and raw. Therefore allowing my disembodied figures to mirror my own fragmented view of reality as they emerge to the surface.




Taeko Kuraya became a member of Brooklyn Art Space in 2012, focusing on abstract landscape paintings. My intention for these small works is that I arrange simple patterns at random, and repeatedly place same patterns, and that each work has to have it's own unique structure


Ella Yang, a native New Yorker, is a mostly self-taught representational oil painter based in Brooklyn, New York. After a long hiatus from art making, Ella realized her dream of studying art in Italy during the summer of 2001. There she discovered “plein air” landscape painting and renewed her interest in drawing from the figure.  In Spring 2003 she made a full-time commitment to a career in artwork. Currently, Ella exhibits and sells her work at 440 Gallery in Brooklyn, and directly from her studio near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.
In 2014, three of her paintings were selected to be displayed at the US Embassy in Geneva, Switzerland through the US State Departments Art in Embassies program.



Dara Oshin is an American born visual artist living in Brooklyn, NY.  She works in mixed media including oil, pencil, ink, gouache, photography and digital media as a means to explore interpersonal relationships. Her emotionally driven work reflects her observations of daily life and often embodies a narrative or conceptual component. In 2015, Dara Illustrated the children’s book, When Santa's Hat Fell From the Sky by Liz Bryde, which won a Bronze Moonbeam Award. Her paintings and drawings have been shown in multiple venues in solo and group shows in Paris and New York including The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Paris, and The Invisible Dog Art Center and The Ground Floor Gallery in Brooklyn NY.


Carrie-Ann Bracco was born and raised in Long Island, NY. She attended Columbia University, receiving a B.A. in Psychology. She traveled extensively after college, living in Italy, England and Bolivia. She received her MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2006. She has attended several residencies including ones at the Weir Farm National Park and The Arctic Circle in Svalbard, Norway. She has exhibited in the National Arts Club, Island Weiss Gallery and Flowers Gallery in NYC. In 2011, she received a Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.



Tony Geiger's images tend to depict environments with unlikely inhabitants, or inhabitants in unlikely environments. These mischievous juxtapositions are attempting to make statements on the human condition, either politically, physically or spiritually.


Beyond Brooklyn

Frank Manzi's Magical Mystery Tour at Wayne & Tonja Smith's Magical Backyard Forest in Morganton, NC. ©Mark D Phillips

There’s nothing like a magical night under the stars listening to music. When that experience includes one of my favorite artists appearing in one of my favorite places in the world, it’s at the top of my bucket list.

It all came to be with a simple Facebook post.

50 years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon.

On July 20, 1969, humans walked on another world for the first time in history, achieving the goal that President John F. Kennedy had set in 1961, before Americans had even orbited the Earth.