Bicycling Art in a Melting Pot
By Matilda Hedberg Dowdle
Photos by Takuya Sakamoto
An anonymous door below a green marquee with the number “35” in modest letters marks our destination. It’s a cold winters morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and we’re happy to get inside. Up old industrial stairs to the third floor, and we knock on the door. The clock has just chimed eleven.
Until the 1960s, this was an old toy factory. Today, the third floor houses a huge studio and apartment. With dented doors, dusty windows and old wooden beams lining the ceiling, this is where Tahlia Lempert lived together with her boyfriend. Both bicycle enthusiasts, she’s an artist and he owns a bike shop over in Manhattan.
The bike is such a central part of our society. It’s a very interesting form of transportation, Tahlia says.
We’re seated at a huge wooden table in the middle of one of the rooms. The smell of oil and paint is lying thick in the air, and light manages to find its way into the building through the old windows, getting some help from a couple of lamps. Just next to us is a great deal of Tahlia’s artwork. While Tahlia also makes jewellery, it’s paintings and screen-prints that today are on display. In the middle of it all, a large painting of a red Crescent catches our eyes. Next to it, a grey mountain bike with a thick frame is waiting to be the next victim. It has been sent to Tahlia from a guy in Boston.
Many people send me their bikes so that I can paint them. It’s how I like to work. I want to have the object physically in front of me, not a photograph.
Growing up further north in New York state, Tahlia headed to the Big Apple during the 1980s. She studied to be an artist at New York University and started bringing the city’s atmosphere into her work. When she bought a bike and left her Metro Card at home, her new form of transportation became a central part of her art.