Meryl Meisler

Artist’s Statement

These photos are from my book Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY ’70s Suburbia & The City. Here is an excerpt from my introduction:

My grandparents came from Eastern Europe to escape pogroms and persecution. It was the Great Depression and both families were poor. My dad, Jack Meisler, married Sylvia Schulman on furlough from the Coast Guard during WWII. Thanks to the GI Bill, they bought a home on the site of a former Chinese vegetable farm in Massapequa, Long Island. They helped found Congregation Beth El, were Presidents of The Knights of Pythias, Pythian Sisters and Temple Sisterhood. Best of all, they co-founded The Mystery Club: eleven couples that went on adventurous outings to places like a haunted house, séance, nudist colony, and gay bathhouse. Brother Mitch arrived during 1st grade, and soon after, I got my first camera, The Adventurer.

In 1969 I went to Buffalo State and studied Art Ed. In In grad school at the University of Wisconsin I studied illustration and photography. After graduation, I moved to New York and studied with Lisette Model. The city was in fiscal and social turmoil, and I was in transition and chaos myself. My parents were divorcing, and I’d recently ‘come out.’ My cousins introduced me to artists, writers, musicians, feminists, activists and intellectuals in East Harlem and the Lower East Side.

In 1977 I went to The COYOTE Hookers Masquerade Ball, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, CBGB, discos, Fire Island, and the Hamptons. The gay and feminist movements were in full swing. I photographed the streets by day and the clubs at night. I received a Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) Artists Grant, and began working for the American Jewish Congress, photographing Jewish NY and my own family roots. I got a hostess job at Playmate, then Winks and The Magic Carpet.

CETA ended in 1979. I did freelance illustration and taught art in public schools. I also began a relationship with a Massapequa girl — the designer of My ‘70s: Sweet and Sassy.. The book encapsulates my coming of age: The Bronx, suburbia, The Mystery Club, dance lessons, Girl Scouts, the Rockettes, the circus, school, mitzvahs, proms, feminism, Disco, Go-Go, Jewish and LGBT Pride, the New York streets, friendship, family and love.

Meryl Meisler (merylmeisler.com) is a photo-based artist. She has received fellowships/grants from New York Foundation from the Arts, Puffin Foundation, Time Warner, Artists Space, CETA, China Institute and Japan Society. Her work is in the permanent collections of AT&T, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Brooklyn Historical Society, Library of Congress, Islip Art Museum, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Pfizer, Reuters, Columbia University, and YIVO. Her artist books are in the collections of Carnegie Mellon, Pompidou, Chrysler Museum, Metronome, Museum of the City of New York, MoMA NYC, and the Whitney Museum. Meryl is the author of A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY ’70s Suburbia & The City.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of eight books and chapbooks, including This Visit (Blazevox, 2015), How to be Another (Cervena Barva Press, 2014), and State of the Union (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2014). Her ninth book, Heisenberg’s Salon, is available now for pre-order from Blazevox. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, and Verse Daily.