Kitty and Billy Go to Coney Island
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About "Kitty and Billy"
Kitty and Billy’s day at Coney Island started on an outing to Hoboken, NJ, in a photography class taught by Nancy Starrels. It was a clear day in the early 1980s. In an alley running parallel to Main Street I saw the names “Kitty” and “Billy” on a pair of garage doors, spray-painted opposite each other. They were in a beautiful light, and I would remember them. I took many photos in Hoboken. We wanted to have a group exhibition.
        Two photos from Hoboken particularly affected me: a boy at a street corner, and a girl playing house with her sisters. I was living in Manhattan then, but I had dreams of returning to Brooklyn. I had spent the first two years of my life here. I had an unbounded feeling when I took my camera to Coney Island and the Botanic Gardens. One day I had a thrill photographing couples joining hands across space in a ride that I think of as the Sky Carousel. My life changed, and as I put away my camera and darkroom equipment, I still dreamed of returning to Brooklyn, and I remembered the doors I had photographed in the alleyway in Hoboken.
       The American philosopher Eli Siegel has written that memory is “the world as it is in us” — a relation of past and present, momentary and permanent, self and world. He stated the principle: “In reality opposites are one; art shows this.” I have studied Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy he founded, since 1980, with increasing happiness every year.
       Fast forward to summer 1997. At the Museum of Modern Art, the work of Russian avant-garde artists Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg astonished and moved me. I was finding new expression in printmaking at the Art Students League and looking with renewed interest at the relation of past, present, and future. I thought of putting the figure of the daydreaming boy together with a large closeup of the girl on a movie screen. The negatives shot in Hoboken and Coney Island took on a new life under the enlarger as their shadows fell on metal plates coated with a light sensitive emulsion. It took about six months of experimentation to create and print the aquatints.
        And during that time, I came to Brooklyn myself, to Williamsburg, where I still live.
                          Mary Fagan. Brooklyn, NY
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