Monday, October 1, 2007

Chelsea Hotel & Linda Troeller

room 323, Monika Nicolle & Laurence Belotti-Sonnois

This weekend I was walking past the Chelsea Hotel and decided to take a stroll through the lobby, which is as far as I’d ever gotten inside. By chance, the POOL art fair was going on and I was free to roam the halls, entering rooms where artists had set up installations and gallery spaces. There were women lying on beds with broken eggs affixed to their abdomens, entire rooms wrapped in plastic, and bathtubs turned into dioramas containing thousands of pill bottles, pond vegetation, and one woman contemplating suicide.

As I climbed the ornate stairways where paintings lined the walls, a little man in a red bathrobe shuffled down the hall in slippers. An elderly woman sat outside her room watching the goings-on as if from a front stoop.

The art fair officially ended on the 5th floor and I considered leaving at that point, but signs led me up to the 9th where 12-year resident and photographer Linda Troeller had turned her room into a gallery space for the weekend. She was getting ready to leave, but when I told her about Vanishing New York, hoping for a quick interview, she said, “Are you Jeremiah? I asked you to come here today.” She pulled out a newspaper clipping about this blog in Chelsea Now, which I hadn't seen, and said she'd just emailed me that morning. But I was offline all day and didn’t get the message—or did I? (Cue the eerie music.)

linda in her room

“That is so weird,” I said.

“It’s not weird at all,” Linda told me, as if the whole course of the day’s serendipity were perfectly normal. Maybe it is normal in the Hotel Chelsea, where ghosts roam the halls and far, far weirder things have happened over the years. In an interview for Chelsea Now, Linda said, “When people come to the hotel, they do so knowing the place will open them up and guide them.” I guess, in this case, it guided me straight to Linda.

As I leafed through her book of evocative photographs, Atmosphere: An Artist’s Memoir of the Chelsea Hotel, NYC (which includes pictures of Rufus Wainwright, Ethan Hawke, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as well as many other Chelsea habitues), Linda and I talked about the hotel and her mission to preserve the people and the place in images. “The hotel goes beyond physicality,” she said, “It is a worldwide symbol of the fresh dream,” the dream of artists who flock to the hotel. She has been photographing the place since 1994 and is currently documenting the changes that threaten to unravel that dream.

We didn’t have long to talk, so we promised to meet again. I am looking forward to it. In the meantime, to see Linda’s work and purchase her book, please visit the artist’s website. To find out everything there is to know about the current battle to save the Chelsea, go to Living with Legends.

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