Wendy White (b. 1971)

Cherry Market

Image from Cherry Market by Allen & Overy
Year: 2011
Materials: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 99.1 × 121.3 cm

Wendy White is an American painter who has lived in New York for quite some time and who takes her inspiration from the city. The title Cherry Market refers to a food shop on the outskirts of Chinatown where White has her studio. Like many artists nowadays, White is fascinated by gentrification, the upgrading or “yuppification” of entire boroughs. Young artists move into areas of a city deemed unattractive to most people, often out of financial need. These are deprived neighbourhoods characterised by housing blocks and former urban factories, still affordable for young people without a fixed income. When many artists and young creatives start to gather in such neighbourhoods, there’s a chance of it becoming a “hip and happening” place. Run-down and unrefurbished is then suddenly dubbed “vintage and authentic”. The neighbourhood becomes more attractive with these local art initiatives and often native residents, who had already given up in terms of improvement, are drawn into the youthful enthusiasm and feel reconnected with the area. This description may be slightly clichéd, but it is common in large cities. The time span in which this process takes place differs, of course, from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

Gentrification also has its drawbacks. Besides young creative people, wealthier city dwellers and speculators are also attracted to the emerging neighbourhoods for various reasons and start investing by buying buildings or even entire blocks. Real-estate prices start to rise and houses become unaffordable for many. The district is renovated and cleared of unattractive elements. Those who are unable or unwilling to keep up with the rising prices have to explore the periphery.

As Wendy White sees it, Chinatown is the last piece of raw and authentic New York left in all of the city. The only neighbourhood that rich yuppies and hipsters have not yet taken over. It is a remnant of Manhattan where original New Yorkers still live, although White acknowledges that this terminology is fairly gratuitous. The spray paint in her works is a testimony to the graffiti artists and scribblers. The tags resemble the art on the walls of Cherry Market, her beloved neighbourhood store. It is her artistic homage to scruffiness and unconditioned behaviour. White reckons the world can’t do without it and she associates a sterile city with the end of all inspiration and life.

Six additional slats sit on top of the canvas, three of them positioned horizontally and three vertically. One can only speculate about their meaning, but it appears to be an abstracted form of architecture, a horizon with a building. It makes sense in the light of her overall message and fits in with her love for New York, a city made by people, not rules and commandments.