A love affair with Bridges
BASCOVE is a visual artist whose career spans illustration, woodblock printing, painting and mixed media collage. She is known by a single name. Her subjects are bridges – a love affair that started in her youth. Bascove described a childhood memory of feeling like she was floating in the air as the family car crossed the Delaware River on the Ben Franklin Bridge (from Philadelphia, PA to Southern NJ). From that moment, bridges became magical. Bascove was born in Philadelphia and currently resides in New York City.
Bascove had a double major in illustration and woodblock printmaking at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, where she studied from 1964 to 1968. She remembers Claire Van Vliet who taught printmaking at the College, and feels enormously fortunate to have met her because Van Vliet gave her much-needed direction and great support. Woodblock printmaking became a primary practice for the artist. After she graduated college, Bascove lived in New York City, and started her career as an illustrator for book covers, magazines and newspapers. In 1977 she moved to Paris, France. While in Paris, she started to draw and paint bridges, first as watercolor sketches while walking her dog along the River Seine. She continued her bridge paintings after she returned to the United States.
I’ve included Bascove’s paintings in oil as well as her more recent collages to show how an artist can reinterpret a beloved subject in new media with a new point of view.
The image above is titled Williamsburg Bridge 5, 1995, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches.
Bascove says she was inspired by and identified with artists like Elsie Driggs, George Ault, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Howard Cook and Louis Lozowick. These artists are associated with the genre called Precisionism (or Cubist Realism). Bascove says her painting style celebrates the engineering advances, strength and stark beauty of City life.
The image above is titled Bayonne Bridge 1, 2003, oil on canvas, 42 x 26 inches.
Bascove said she loved the bridges in Paris because “they stayed still while hundreds of years of history changed all around them.” She said she was/is inspired by the bridges in NYC because “they are monumental icons of a constantly renewed, fast moving, multi-cultural society and represent extraordinary innovations in engineering and construction.“
The image above is titled Ward’s Island Bridge, oil on canvas, 2005, 26 x 52 inches, Private Collection. The view is seen from the FDR Highway at 103rdStreet, The Hellgate and Triboro Bridges are in the background. The curves of the sky mirror the curves of the bridge and waterway.
The image above is titled Harlem River Bridges, 1991, oil on canvas, 30 x 48 inches. This is a painting of 3 bridges: The High, Washington and Hamilton Bridges, seen along the Harlem River in NYC. View all the bridge paintings here. Bascove’s bridge paintings were exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York during the celebration for the Centennial celebration of the joining of all five NYC boroughs – Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. The bridges connect the five boroughs. An exhibition at the Hudson River Museum followed.
The image above is titled Triborough Bridge, 1999, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, Private Collection.
The image above is titled George Washington Bridge II, 1999, oil on canvas, 42 x 26 inches, Private Collection.
Collage and Mixed Media
After decades of drawing, painting and making prints, Bascove switched to collage. She says there were many factors in her life that were pointing to breaking away from what she had been doing and that it was not the first time she’d made a major change in medium and subject matter. Bascove’s first collages were all bridges – still familiar structures but made with small units pieced together. Bascove integrated photographs and drawing with magazine and book scraps, cut paper, Internet printouts, thread and fabric
The image above is titled Brooklyn Bridge, Erratica II, 2007, silkscreen, 23 x 18 inches.
The image above is titled Queensboro Bridge North to South, 2011, photographs, drawing, pigment print & collage, 23 x 34 inches. Bascove created this collage with photographs she took as she walked from the uptown side of the bridge to the downtown side. Each of the 8 images started as a digital pigment print.
The image above is titled Queensboro Bridge 2, 2011, photographs, drawing and collage on d’Arches paper, 11 x 8 ½ inches.
The image above is titled Spirals, 2018, photographs, gouache, collage, fabric, thread & drawing on hand-made paper, 17 x 17 ½ inches. Notice how different elements repeat, forming a multitude of patterns that turn into a spiral. This mixed media collage was exhibited in 2019 at PaperWest, a national juried show of contemporary works on paper at Gittins Gallery, the University of Utah (Oct. 7 – Nov.1, 2019).
In the image above, Bascove is standing next to her easel with 3 works tacked to a board. The two smaller works are early printouts of the work in progress, titled Seamstress II (collage). High on the wall behind the artist are, left to right, Outerbridge Crossing (collage), Bronx Whitestone Bridge (oil on canvas), and Emily Wore White (collage).
I took this photo of the artist the day I visited her studio for this interview. I fell in love with her studio and live/work apartment. She has a studio that is flooded with natural light from skylights and a wall of windows overlooking her East Side Manhattan neighborhood. Bascove says being able to work with natural light in the studio is a constant joy. There are 2 easels, a large worktable, flat files for collage media and photos, antique oak bookcases (Bascove loves to read), cameras on shelves and a desktop computer. Adjacent to the studio is a compact kitchen and a generous round oak dining table that was a perfect location for introductions, coffee and conversation. Bascove say the views of the skies and moon to the east, especially of lunar eclipses, have regularly figured in her paintings, photography and collages. Bascove says living within walking distance of the Queensboro Bridge – a favorite destination for Bascove to walk her dog – keeps it at the forefront of her bridge images.
The image above is titled The Time We Spend in Words, 2017, book pages, drawing, photographs, microchips & collage on hand made paper, 40×42 inches. Bascove says she’s mad for books and this collage grew from a desire to make a work about books that shows marbleized paper edges and the open book shapes. She included tiny letters she found in type, design and poster books, images of typewriter, computer keys, moveable type, and even metal stencils.
The image above is titled Emily Wore White (based on the Emily Dickinson poem A Spider Sewed at Night), 2017, lace, drawing, photographs, needles, thread, buttons and collage on hand made paper, 20 x 54 ½ inches. Bascove says this collage is about Dickinson’s identification with a spider and about women sewing and led her to sew through layers of paper, and embed some of her mother’s needles and thread in the piece.
Bascove’s recent collages explore more than bridges. See what’s current. Follow Bascove on Instagram.
All images are from the artists website and are © Bascove. See more paintings, prints and mixed media collages here.
See Bascove’s beautiful published books – including Stone and Steel: Paintings and Writings Celebrating the Bridges of New York City (1998). Images are reproduced in full color.
Bascove’s paintings have been exhibited regularly in New York and Paris and can be found in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York, Time Warner, and the Musee de Cherbourg. Bascove has shown work in solo exhibitions at the Museum of the City of New York, the Arsenal in Central Park, the Municipal Art Society, the Hudson River Museum, NYU Fales Library, the Noble Maritime Collection at Snug Harbor, and the National Arts Club. Bascove’s political and literary works are in the Permanent Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.