The artist Mary Anne Rose views the Chelsea as a Living Museum. Now there's a suggestion: Stanley could establish a recommended donation for viewing the paintings in the lobby and make some extra cash. Mary Anne and her husband, the late painter Herbert Gentry, embody the timeless bohemian spirit of Chelsea.
What do you do?
I am an artist and art educator.
When did you move into the Chelsea?
My late husband Herb Gentry first invited me to join him in New York at the Chelsea (I was living in Paris at the time, where I had met him) . That “introduction” in November 1978 would become permanent. Gentry had come to the Chelsea many years earlier. (Photo: Mary Ann Rose and Herbert Gentry in front of the Chelsea from the archives of Mary Ann Rose.)
What would you say are the main differences between how the Chelsea was when you first moved in and how it is now?
We are talking about 1978 through 2006. Well, of course, I’ve changed. I was so wide-eyed and excited and fascinated by the Chelsea the minute I walked in. It was another world. There was an older generation or two of folks alive at the time so it carried a palpable connection to living history for me. It was also a very friendly place. A different crowd of folks sat in the lobby in 1978. There were real characters passing through the lobby late evenings that might keep a voyeur surprised and amused.
American culture and New York was a different experience in 1978. I remember the French advertised New York as “le metropole moins cher du monde” which meant dollars were cheap. Those were transitional times, a very lively social period. You still felt how the Chelsea had been home to American bohemia, and a lot of the residents, memories and attitudes of earlier years lived on at the Chelsea . The French have a saying for this, the more things change, the more things remain the same.
The lobby was really pretty funky in 1978, the front desk area was sort of white painted plywood, forget the elegant dark wood look of today! The original Chelsea antique sideboards and benches in the lobby had different upholstery, but there were no flowers. Much of the same art was hanging in the lobby when I first came, some newer pieces have been added, but many are the same. That’s what really defined the place for me – a living museum!
How would you describe your art?
I have spent a lot of time writing during the time Gentry was ill, and after he passed away. A little tight for physical work space, I’ve been forced to make a lot of creative adjustments. My art? I think of it as the roll it up and take it with you kind – originally, to facilitate painting and exhibiting on two continents. Visually-based, abstract and geometric modalities, Paintings on unprimed, unstretched linen, works on paper, drawings, prints.
Who has influenced your art?
Clearly, living with another artist influenced me. But I was an artist before I met Gentry, and remain an independent artist today. The artistic discourse is important and continual.
Has your work been influenced by any residents here at the Chelsea?
I believe one’s life is influenced by interactions with people and places, and this shapes who you are in entering the studio. My residence at the Chelsea extends over 28 years. At the Chelsea, one passes art on the walls, people in the elevators, and there is the city itself. My artist friends here? Doris Chase, long term resident and video artist, in particular shared a lot of her experience with me before she left.
Identify some other artists who he admired and why.
Gentry went back to Paris in 1946 after serving in WWII, and lived many years in Paris, and then Sweden. Gentry came to the Chelsea thanks to the recommendation of the international museum director Pontus Hulten, who was a Swede and Herb knew him in Paris and Stockholm. Herb thought of it first as the place that European artists stayed. Gentry had grown up in New York city in the 1920s and 1930s, the Chelsea was perfect. Gentry admired many here at the Chelsea, of course those with French connections, Bernard Childs, Shirley Clarke, Virgil Thomson, Martine Barratt, many others. But Gentry was a personality, made many connections and impressions here that I still learn about! At the Chelsea, he congregated with writer Chester Himes, artists Romare Bearden. Bill Hutson. Bob Blackburn resided here in the final years. The Printmaking workhop was nearby. I worked there, too. Artists from Scandinavia and Paris stayed here, painters, musicians, short term and long. Writer Piri Thomas. Bernard Childs, Martine Barratt, and others. Ed Clark in the neighborhood. Theater, actor Kevin O’Connor was our next-door neighbor, then actress Cyndi Coyne and Theo. Gentry would meet for breakfast at Wellington Restaurant on Seventh Ave. -- now Eros Cafe -- and Chelsea Square at 23rd and Ninth Ave. He loved the funky donut shop and egg sandwiches at Eighth and 23rd. He had a café spirit and the neighborhood offered that to him.
Describe Mr. Gentry’s art?
Was Mr. Gentry’s work influenced by anyone he met or knew here at the Chelsea? Gentry the artist was already formed when he first arrived at the Chelsea. Most importantly, he felt very good here, and free in his lifestyle, and able to paint. The many people he met here all contributed to his art, because he was inspired by the human spirit.
Do you think the Chelsea has a creative spirit? I think creative individuals bring their creative spirit with them, and arrive at the Chelsea with this spirit as part of their baggage, so to speak. Because many such folks are gathered at the Chelsea, it becomes a safe and even, stimulating environment to work, share and acknowledge that creative impulse. It is a norm, rather than an exception.