Installation maven Amanda Browder teamed with Diner restaurant to celebrate their upcoming twentieth anniversary. The Brooklyn neighborhood staple began looking for a potential creative collaborator and their search ended with Browder who was more than happy to join the celebration. Known for her sprawling psychedelic works, Browder is a phenomenal artist who often uses donated fabrics to create an eyecatching dialog. I caught up with Browder who helped shed some light on the inspiration and process behind the vivrant piece that is “Electric Diner.”
How did this collaboration come about?
The collaboration came about because they were looking for a way to celebrate their 20th and my name came up for a possible artist to collaborate. I was honored and excited to work with them because most of my projects have been out of the city, and I wanted to do a piece local to my town. I moved here 11 years ago, and one of my first building pieces was in Greenpoint in 2010 called Future Phenomena. I made this piece because I wanted to get to know my neighbors, council people, landlords, etc. through my art practice. I lived in Greenpoint and I didn’t want to be another nomadic artist. I wanted to create some roots; Brooklyn was my first location where I started really working with the community as part of my process. My city family is so strong and growing. I have made so many new friends.
Tell us about the assembly process of “Electric Diner”…
The process is in three parts: donation of fabric, public sewing days and installation/presentation. First we used all fabric donated from people from the Brooklyn area. To make a site-specific to Brooklyn, I included only fabric from here. I also included some Diner restaurant table cloths. One unique thing about Diner is that the servers write the menus on the table when you eat. I wanted to incorporate this aspect of the location into the piece, so if you look for the tie-dye blue section, you will see a faint section of text that was written by a server that day. I see these pieces as time-capsules of Brooklyn at this time and location. I find it important to include the table-cloths as an homage to the restaurant and the people who come here. Some group ate their dinner on those tablecloths!
You mentioned Public Sewing Days. Actual Brooklynites had the pleasure of helping with this project?
Yes. Public Sewing Days! These are open to the public and I teach people how to sew and how to create one of these large scale pieces. We use regular sewing machines and pin all the donated fabrics in a long monochromatic strip. We essentially are re-making bolts of fabric with donations.
Electric Diner had three main locations for the Public Sewing Days: my studio at Mishka Studios in Greenpoint, Marlow & Sons and Polish Slavic Center in Greenpoint. Here I talked about sewing, pinning and how this piece will come together. At the Polish Slavic Center I gave a talk to the elderly Polish group about what I was doing and what pieces I made in the past. I sewed with three volunteers and felt so happy to meet some of the people I live near in Greenpoint.
“Electric Diner” is an eye catching piece that really seems to stand out but mesh well with the space. What inspired the piece?
When I make a piece, I like to create something that has a feeling of shock and awe within the city. Comparatively, it is made with fabric, so it has a feeling of softness, nostalgia and familiarity.
I wanted it to electrify the corner. Diner has been there for twenty years and so many people still haven’t been. This piece creates a temporary visual marker that is a reminder of its location. A reminder of who works there, or ate there, or walked past and saw the building thinking of a memory. Most times we tune out our surroundings when they become familiar. I like to shake that up with a visual brightness.
I also hope to inspire people to not fear working large-scale. Even though it’s fabric, we as a group made a very large piece. It’s creatively accessible and visually exciting. Diner has supported their employees who are artists, writers, musicians etc. this is an homage to all the creative people connected to this corner. A moment to their creative legacy.
Electric Diner will be on display throughout the month. Be sure to stop by Diner (85 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11249), check out the piece, get one for the gram–hashtag #electricdinernyc and #amandabrowder–and don’t be afraid to stop in and have a nice meal.
Akeem is our founder. A writer, poet, curator and profuse sweater, he is responsible for the curatorial direction and overall voice of Quiet Lunch. The Bronx native has read at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, KGB Bar, Lovecraft and SHAG–with works published in Palabra Luminosas and LiVE MAG13. He has also curated solo and group exhibitions at numerous galleries in Chelsea, Harlem, Bushwick and Lower Manhattan.