Dancing hand to Crotch at Hurrah Wild Wild West Party
NY, NY, March 1978 by Meryl Meisler (ig)
From book “Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City” Signed copies available (here)
I was introduced to Meryl's work in the wake of the publication of her book Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City and fell in love at first sight. The book brilliantly juxtaposes photos of the middle class Jewish community in suburban Massapequa, Long Island, where Meryl grew up, with wild scenes of disco-era New York City in the throes of sexual revolution and liberation. The images are a uniquely dynamic and life affirming record of an era where the extremes of a Dionysian city and a 'square' suburbs were sometimes closer in spirit and adventure and excess than first appearances might suggest. The photos also reveal a charming photographer at ease in both of these worlds, and one who clearly put her subjects at ease as well. Hers is a joyful celebration and warm embrace of people and place. Looking at them today feels like a healing medicine for the pain of our difficult times. I asked Meryl to tell me more about her start in photography, and the work she loved to make.
The passion for photography is in my genes. My dad Jack Meisler, his brother Al and their father Murray were all avid photographers. It didn’t matter if they ever shared their photos; the act of photography was something they did for pleasure- like humming or whistling a tune. My parents gave me a camera for my 7th birthday. Inspired by the Diane Arbus retrospective at MoMA, I took my 1st photography class in 1973 and began photographing myself, family and friends in Long Island, NY. In 1975, I moved to New York City, continuing to photograph my hometown and the streets of NYC. After working as a freelance illustrator by day, the book Brassaï: The Secret Paris of the 30's was influential as I frequented and photographed the infamous NYC discos, nightclubs and Go Go bars. As a 1978 CETA Artist grant recipient, I created a portfolio of photographs exploring my Jewish Identity for the American Jewish Congress. After CETA, I began my 31 year career as a NYC Public School Art Teacher.
Upon retirement, I started to release large bodies of unseen work in books and exhibits. Throughout my careers and personal life, photographing has been a form of memoir. I’m drawn to photograph people and situations that make me smile, feel bewilderment, seem stereotypical and/or unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. My archive is full of dichotomies and mystery. I’ve barely begun to uncover and understand its depth.
My first book “A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick” (Bizarre Publishing 2014) sold out. The work featured here is from “Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City” (Bizarre Publishing 2015). Signed copies are available Now I’m working on “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco”; it will be a knockout.
Current or upcoming group exhibits:
•Studio 54: Night Magic
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, through November 8, 2020
then at Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Canada) December 20, 2020—April 11, 2021
•Pride Marches On, Celebrating 50 Years
Art of Our Century, NY, NY June 26 – July 19, 2020
•From Acid to Ecstasy
Lockwood Gallery, Kingston, NYC, July 4 – August 1, 2020
Grace Before Jones: Camera, Disco, Studio
Nottingham Contemporary (UK), dates to be rescheduled due to CoVid 19
Meryl Meisler is represented by ClampArt Gallery