By James Maher
Name: Karen Fleisch
Occupation: Clothing Designers, Artist, Door Girl at Delancey
Location: 14th Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 3:30pm on Thursday, April 24
I’m originally from North Jersey, so I used to take the bus over from the time I was a teenager. I would go shopping and go to CBGB on the weekends. I moved to the Lower East Side around 1997.
I design clothing and I also design for theatre, I do styling, and I’m an artist. I work with film and often end up often doing set design and background acting. Throw me in and I’ll do it. For my art, I do illustration and I to create these mirror collages that are kind of fairly land based. That I do for me. I’ve never really shown my art.
Originally, I lived down on Grand and I’ve lived in the same area of the Lower East Side ever since. I remember coming to my friends up here on 10th Street and hanging out, getting drunk, going home, and as soon as I would get to Houston Street, I’d have my keys through my fingers. I was suddenly aware of everything and no longer as drunk as I was. There were no beat cops and hardly any streetlights. You still had the shops on Orchard Street, but they were the stores that had been there forever.
Within around five years it changed immensely. Now it’s designer shops and chic restaurants and there are now beat cops. There are cops out on their horses at night. I find it funny, walking down the Bowery late at night, how you have all these kids running around and these girls in their six-inch heels running around, ready to fall over. Granted, I used to do the same thing, but the Bowery was different. We’d go to CBGB and the whole vibe was different. You were on the Bowery and you were aware that you were on the Bowery. Now the Bowery still has a lot of that element there, but no one pays attention to it in the same way.
It’s going to be like the Meatpacking District. On one hand, it’s New York City and it’s supposed to change. It’s supposed to keep moving forward. I’m all for that. My only problem is that you don’t really have these funky neighborhoods anymore with people that have been there forever. Fifteen years ago there were a lot more artists and musicians. I have artist friends who’ve all moved out because they can’t afford the rent anymore.
That’s the whole reason that most people come here, I think, because there is this creative energy. You can be a misfit. I’ve always called it the island of misfit artists. You can be a misfit here and it’s okay, no matter what you’re into or what your sexual preferences are. No matter what, you will find your niche here. I find that most people that do get messed with here are getting messed with by people who don’t live here. It’s like they come in to go to the zoo and they’re looking for misfits to make fun of. Which, again, is something that’s always happened, but I’ve noticed it more. There’s more of a dividing line now, whereas before it was not as much.
I’m also the door girl at the Delancey on Friday and Saturday nights, which are the nights where it’s more of a dance party kind of thing. I’ve been there for a year, you know, just a way to make some extra money for groceries and things. I’ve had more jobs than… everything and anything.
Funny thing, doing one of my art projects six weeks ago, I recently sliced the top of my thumb off with an Exacto knife. It was hardcore. I went to the emergency room and they wanted me to do all this follow-up stuff, and at the time I had no kind of insurance. So I’m like, ‘How the hell am I going to do this?’ I can’t afford to go to all of these specialist doctors. Of course, as I’m working the door, everybody that’s coming in is asking what happened to my thumb, and then, all of a sudden this one guy comes up to me and he’s like, ‘Oh do you need to see an orthopedic doctor?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah as a matter of fact I do.’ He was one, so he gave me an appointment immediately to go to Columbia Presbyterian. It’s a walk-in clinic, but he told me to just mention his name, no problem. So I did and they took care of me. It was totally awesome. The perks of being a door girl. You never know.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.