Southeast corner of West 14th Street and Tenth Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan

November 2000

This painting was on the wall of a meatpacking plant. The wall already had a lot of graffiti. The meatpackers came by right away to tell me to leave, but then they decided that they liked the project and let me stay. The painting was based on a painting by Ludwig Richter of a pond in Poland. The workers kept coming back to see how it was going so it was hard to concentrate.

Halfway through the second day, I was suddenly slammed against the wall. Someone grabbed my arms and started banging me headfirst against the concrete. I thought I was being mugged. I was surprised to be mugged at two in the afternoon, but mainly I was terrified. Then I got turned around and saw that it was the police. There was a moment of silence before one of the two cops said, “We thought you were homeless.” I said the only thing that occurred to me, which was “I’m not homeless.” They looked at me for a bit, and then one of them asked, “You got permission to paint that?” I was so flustered that I said, “Well, not exactly, but it seems to be OK with the meatpackers.” So one of the cops went off to the plant to see if I had permission and the other one stayed to make sure that I didn’t run away. He told me that they’d been told to clean up the Meatpacking District. I tried to explain what I was doing, but he didn’t seem very interested. He just kept yelling that the mayor, Rudy Guiliani, hated graffiti and that they were going to arrest me if I was painting without permission. I offered to paint over my painting so that the wall would look like it had before I came – covered with graffiti but without any landscape. This seemed only to enrage him further: “You don’t touch that wall, ever, you understand?” Finally, his partner came back and pointed out that there was no way I could have permission, since the owner of the building was apparently dead. After shouting a bit more and telling me that they would arrest me if they ever saw me again, they let me go. Sometimes it really is a good thing to be a white woman in her thirties.

I didn’t dare go back, so this painting never got finished. I’m not very brave. I didn’t file a complaint, because I didn’t want to bring myself to the attention of the police when I still had so many more paintings to do. The wall is all clean and repainted now and fits in well with the Meatpacking District’s swank new look.