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‘Jay Myself’ Review: Departing 190 Bowery is Such Sweet Sorrow

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Jay Myself

Directed by STEPHEN WILKES, Produced by BETTE WILKES, HENRY JACOBSON, and EMMA TAMMI

Jay Maisel is a world renowned photographer but Jay Maisel is also a collector, and an appreciator of the arcane, seeing what most don’t see though they are standing right in front of it. Hidden in plain sight some might say. Though Jay’s childlike sense of appreciation is evident throughout the documentary; you actually get a pang of sadness as you watch him decide what to throw away and what to keep. The moving on is what catches you off guard.

Jay Myself

A look inside 190 Bowery, from Stephen Wilkes’s JAY MYSELF. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

There are blessings and curses that you face daily in living and surviving in New York City, the market is volatile (not the stock market, the other market, the real estate market) and outside of money, the most sought after resource in this city is space. Space equals freedom and the one thing that Jay Maisel had in spades was space. The former Germainia Bank building offered a 72 room limitless playground for Jay to realize his ideas. In terms of space to create, he was one of the wealthiest men in the city of New York.

Jay Myself

Jay Maisel in his office at 190 Bowery in Stephen Wilkes’s JAY MYSELF. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Jay Myself simultaneously provides commentary on creativity, aging, New York City and change. The constant being change. The film is beautifully shot and you walk away wondering about the journey of life and the unique opportunities provided by New York City, mindful of its perils and its unrelenting ability to break your heart. Jay Myself is reflection of art, life, real estate, and a poignant reminder of the ephemeral.

Jay Myself

Jay Maisel at 190 Bowery in Stephen Wilkes’s JAY MYSELF. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Watching the film you get a sense of what living and loving an artistic genius is really like. The viewer understands the nuanced freedoms that separate the person you love from the responsibilities of “normalcy”. Being an artist does not absolve you from others around you wondering what life would look like under normal circumstances. However, the unique opportunity to see life through the chaotic kaleidoscope of creativity is a value add and a sacrifice of love. This reality hits home when Jay’s daughter matter-of-factly discusses her observations of her father. Though life may seem different then what one would expect, the divine opportunity is in appreciating the unexpected experiences created by genius.

Take a page out of Jay Maisel’s book and see what is right in front of you. Jay Myself will open at the Film Forum in New York City on July 31st.

SYNOPSIS

JAY MYSELF documents the monumental move of renowned photographer and artist, Jay Maisel, who, in February 2015 after 48 years, begrudgingly sold his home; the 35,000 square-foot, 100-year-old landmark building in Manhattan known simply as “The Bank.” Through the intimate lens of filmmaker and Jay’s protégé, noted artist and photographer Stephen Wilkes, the viewer is taken on a remarkable journey through Jay’s life as an artist, mentor, and man; a man grappling with time, life, change, and the end of an era in New York City.

Rubi Q hails from the imagination of her creator. She writes about art, New York City, and all things creative. Currently she is a contributing staff writer for New York Said.

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