“How Do You Organize 40 Years of Artwork?”
It was beginning to rain as I stepped into the lobby of the Westbeth Artist apartments in Greenwich Village where three students were helping photographer Arlene Gottfried organize 40 years of photographs. There were four closets full of photographs in boxes, plus additional storage cabinets.
Gottfried’s work had been stored haphazardly — edgy photographs of the 1970s and ’80s New York City club scene were mixed in with photographs she had shot for a Life magazine story on welfare hotels. Her photos have appeared in all sorts of places: her own books, including Sometimes Overwhelming and Mommie; in the pages of The New York Times Magazine and many other publications and in exhibits in Tokyo, Paris and Washington, D.C. The prospect of cataloging it all was daunting, to say the least.
“I open the door and close it again,” Gottfried says of her solo attempts at this task. But now she’s getting help from Art Cart, an organization that pairs working artists over 62 with students earning degrees in museum/arts administration or occupational therapy to help them catalog their work. Founded by Joan Jeffri, Art Cart chooses 10 visual artists a year; those lucky ones get some much-valued help from some equally lucky students.