Fire alarm box at 24th Avenue and 27th Street, Astoria, Queens

February 2001

I made this painting for my friend Elizabeth Kaiden. She had just given birth and was living in Astoria and wanted an artwork that she could visit with her baby.

A lot of people stopped to talk while I painted this. Most of them seemed puzzled when I explained what I was doing. One man said, “You must have had a lot of practice.” I agreed.

I like the old fire-alarm boxes. Nowadays, no one would bother to decorate a thing like that. This painting is the one that Roberta Smith described as “one of the best” of the series in The New York Times. Unfortunately, I think she was reacting to the charm of the box rather than to the painting itself, which I made up, and which I don’t think was entirely successful. I wished that the Times had picked another example. It was interesting that Roberta Smith described the paintings as being of the Hudson River School, as almost all of them were based on European landscape paintings, except, of course, for the ones that I made up.

I haven’t been back in Astoria for a while, so I’ve no idea if the painting is still there.