SHINING LIGHT is from a photo by my husband Andrew Reach he took of me at the entrance to the Christopher Street subway station in Greenwich Village NYC in 1984. We lived in Greenwich Village on Charles Street in the 1980’s.
Andrew Reach’s artwork SHINING LIGHT on page 16 of the 2021 fall issue of Canvas magazine about the exhibition CONVERGE
Here’s Andrew’s artist statement about the piece:
“The photograph in SHINING LIGHT in which I overlaid color, forms and texture, is of my husband Bruce Baumwoll. The photograph was taken by me in 1984 at the entrance to the Christopher Street subway station in Greenwich Village, New York. We were living in Greenwich Village and I was studying architecture at Pratt and taking photography classes there as well. Shining Light is a visual love letter. The light above Bruce’s head softly illuminates him like a halo, a metaphorical angel, while my “whimsies” move towards him, attracted to his beautiful essence. SHINING LIGHT speaks to the simple universal notion of the deep love and commitment of two men spending a life together and the homage one man pays to the other he loves so deeply.“
Cover of fall 2021 edition of Canvas Magazine. “Artists of CONVERGE” detail, by Melissa Bloom (2021). Acrylic on wood, 71 5 x 5 inch panels, cropped. Courtesy of Artists Archives of the Western Reserve.
Open spread of pages 16 and 17. Page 17 (on right) showing self portraits by transgender Artist Max Markwald.
SHINING LIGHT is being shown at the LGBTQ Center of Greater Cleveland. There will be a reception at the center for the CONVERGE exhibition Sept. 17, 2021 – 6:30 – 8:30pm.
McBells Irish Pub on 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village
Joseph Campbell was a friend of mine. I came to know him when I was a waiter at McBells, an Irish pub on Sixth Avenue at Washington Place in Greenwich Village, NYC. He came in all the time for lunch. Any one that knew McBells knew it as a small place filled with its own crowd. Many of the famous, near famous, and some of the greatest writers came there to eat and be left alone. But they also loved the owner Francis Campbell. He was a one of a kind.
I got to know many great people who came there. Some became my friends and others became teachers to me. Joseph Campbell was a friend and a teacher.
In the three and half years that I worked there, I waited on him many times. His regular lunch, which he loved, was a bacon cheeseburger—medium rare—french fries, and a Molson’s ale. He loved to watch all that was happening in the place and all the talk from table to table. I have always been the kind of person that if I had something to say or a question, why not ask. One may never get the chance to ask it again.
I was delighted recently when I spoke with Bob Walter—Joseph’s longtime editor, frequent lunch companion at McBell’s, and President of the Joseph Campbell Foundation (jcf.org)—who recalled Joseph pointing me out and remarking, “That’s the young chap who’s always asking me questions—good questions, which I appreciate.” Bob also shared with me that Joseph recommended for Bruce to read Mans Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
To say that there never was another Jewish person that worked there, I cannot be sure. I’m pretty sure I was it. So I really was a Bagel in a place full of Shepard’s Pies. Somehow I brought something to the place that was different and many people enjoyed me.
Me (Bruce Baumwoll) at McBells
Our friendship began slowly and it grew to a place where he was giving me books to read. We would then talk about them when he came in to eat. It was the early 1980s, when Bill Moyers first interviewed Joseph for two segments of his PBS series, Bill Moyers Journals. I watched those interviews each week and was then able to ask Joseph questions about what had been discussed on the show. It was a wonderful time in my life. Nothing is greater to me then hearing people who know something, talk about life, teaching others what they have learned, asking others to open their minds and look at the world in a new light. Joseph was that kind of teacher to me.
Francis Campbell (Owner of McBells) and me
On one day he asked me how do I see the universe. He said there are two camps. One side feels that energy is only for the living. And others feel that every single thing has the same energy. I have always felt that we all are one and come from the same atom. Everything is alive . A rock is no different the tree or us. He laughed and said . He too believes that life is in everything. So many lessons I was given by this great man.
We had been talking for awhile on many subjects . If I brought the question, he would help me find the answer. The best part was when he would tell me that I needed to read a certain book. During lunch times, he saw that I held my own. I could often be teased for I was somehow different and stood out from others; just being myself, meaning I was, and still am, a very organic person. What you see is what there is. One day, while he was eating, we were talking in between my waiting on the other tables. He said he was thinking about me and wanted me to read a certain book, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Mans Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
Since I did not know what the book was about, I asked him. He told me it was about a man and his experience in the concentration camps. I got very uptight and he asked me what was wrong. I told him the truth; that since my earliest memory as a child I’ve had horrific visions. I did not speak until around the age of three. The things that I would see in front of my eyes, from my first stages of awareness, are still hard to talk about for they took so much out of me; such darkness. I would not share these visions to anyone in fear that, even at a very young age, they would take me away from my mother and father because I irrationally thought that they would think I was crazy. But the visions would never stop. As people walked up to me, I might see visions of them being killed in all horrible ways. I didn’t know where this was coming from. Was I seeing their death or was it a memory from another life? While just in my own thoughts in everyday life, these visions could come up spontaneously at any time. At an early age, when I was dreaming these thoughts at night time and woke up, I was so afraid that I would go to my younger brother and crawl into bed while he was sleeping and hold onto his arm or his leg to feel safe.
In the early fifties there was no way I could have ever seen such things as a small boy in the media like you do now. I began to think these thoughts were one of two things: in a past life, I was either the victim or I was the one that did the crimes. It has taken me a lifetime and I still do not know.
After sharing all of this with Joseph, he asked me if I was a practicing Jew. I told him my family was like many American Jews. They really only went to a Synagogue on the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and have a Passover Seder. But they didn’t practice daily or weekly, keep kosher or observe the Sabbath. He said to me “you must promise you will read this book and we shall talk about it”. I said I would and I did. I did not sleep for many nights. It opened up all the visions more than normal.
We had many talks about the book and what I thought it was saying. He shared with me many thoughts. One afternoon when he came in I was having a bad day. There were some customers that would come in all the time and they enjoyed getting me going; teasing me, “just having a little fun” they would say. Joseph saw that I was a bit uptight. He called me over to him and asked me what was wrong and I shared my feelings.
He grabbed my arm and held it very hard. I have never liked to be touched but I tried to relax. He waited until he had my complete attention. Paraphrasing, he said, “Bruce I want you to listen to me now. Do you know why I asked you to read Man’s Search For Meaning? During the Holocaust, in the camps, there were two types of souls that went there and only one type came out. I saw in you that if you had lived in that time, Bruce, you would have been the soul that would be the survivor. There is something in your being that is yours and no one can take that away from you”.
That moment changed my whole life and put me on the path that I have stayed on all these years. And finally I am a man that has found my Jewish roots and my place in the world. Joseph Campbell helped me get back to being a practicing Jew. It has taken me a lifetime. And I now understand why he told me such a powerful thing. I can still feel his hand on my arm and the warm smile when he said those words and what he was saying to me. We all have a choice as to how to walk through this thing called life- with our minds open or closed. It is our choice; to keep growing from our times or stay safe. None of us have easy lives. Each one of us must find our own way. My life is no different than anyone else’s. I have always had a need to stay present but most of all, I have been blessed with great guides and teachers. Our minds want to keep expanding. It wants to keep growing. It’s not what one has ever lost in life, it’s what one still has left and to try to find that ray of light.
From Wikipedia about the book “Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl:
Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and describing his psychotherapeutic method of finding a reason to live. According to Frankl, the book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” Part One constitutes Frankl’s analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory of logotherapy. It is the second-most widely read Holocaust book in the bookstore of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
I would have never imagined that my blog BaumwollArchives.com and my little films would have reached an audience over 1 million. I also hoped it to be a place for my husband Andrew Reach (andrewreach.com) and his art to be remembered when we are gone. We will be together 40 years. When I started, I never thought that my work would go all around the world and so many of you sharing your thoughts and love. I hope you enjoy my little films. I want to thank all of you who have looked at my work and enjoyed it for what it is, a moment in time to just let go.
Baumwoll Archives started as a labor of love. The idea came to me when my husband Andrew Reach and I went to hear Scott Ligon, author of the book “Digital Art Revolution”, and professor and head of the digital art department at Cleveland Institute of art. Andrew was personally invited to hear the lecture. As I sat there with Andrew and listened to Scott speak, I became more intrigued with what he was saying. He was telling the audience that we live in a new age, an age where everything is becoming accessible to all through digital technology and the internet. Through his presentation he showed us the power of giving back what we have by sharing and giving it away and by doing so, will be amazed at what will come back to you. Instead of hoarding anything, release it and let it be free to live on, way beyond the life we are living today. Before this digital age, most things were lost. That’s why so many of us are now being able to reconnect with the family histories we lost because of the ease of research through the internet with genealogy. When the lecture was over, and Andrew and I were talking with Scott and his wife, I let Scott know that he inspired me and I was going to go home and try to allow myself to let go of all that I was holding on to.
And so I began
Memories Of Edgemere Far Rockaway – The Photographs by Murray Cooper “New York, New York” performed by Frank Sinatra
This video features the Kodachrome Photographs by the late Murray Cooper, loaned to Baumwoll Archive through the Library of Barbara Cooper. The beginning montage of black and white photographs are by an unknown photographer. The iconic black & white aerial photo is of the boardwalk at Edgemere on July 4, 1957 by Margaret Bourke-White.
The subject of the photos are of life at the Bungalow Colony at Beach 38th Street and a wonderful portrait of life on the Boardwalk and on the beach between 1957 and 1961. Through his photographs, he weaves us a world of families leaving the hot city, mostly from the Bronx, to have a wonderful life during the summer at the bungalow colony, from their evening gatherings, to all the families sitting on the porches talking, to the utterly amazing boardwalk photographs. He captures his beloved Pearl, his family and extended family and other returning families who came to the same Bungalow Colony every summer.
As I mentioned before on my blog, Beach 38th Street holds a very special place to me personally, and one of the things that was lost to me were photographs of the street and the house. Through an unbelievable chain of events all of us will get to enjoy these amazing photographs of a time and place and a way of life that has slipped away. With my world being all on Beach 38th Street with my grandparents owning and running one of the big summer homes, in many of his photographs he captures the home. It is the large brown house right off the Boardwalk. These are the first pictures I’ve seen of the house since I was a boy.
Murray Cooper considered himself an amateur photographer, using a professional quality 35 mm camera and Kodachrome film. But the quality of the pictures speak otherwise. His photographs in the end will be compared with the great photographs of New York. Murray never got to see where his photographs will get to travel in today’s world. The internet will take these pictures everywhere.
I wish to Thank Barbara Cooper for sharing her father’s photographs with us.
For all who grew up in the Rockaways remember Playland. Whether you were very young with all your families your first time. One can never forget this wonderful place. As we grew older many of us went there to hang out as they use to say and just be there on a saturday with our own friends. Again it was a simpler time. For a few dollars we could be with our friends or by ourselves. Remembering All the smells and the grit of the place is another feeling of home. I have been collecting photograph and postcards for over 30 years now . Its fun to put them all together for all to see this wonderful place. I hope you enjoy all your own memories.
Click the photograph and it shall take you to a little film I did on Playland a few years ago