BARBARA G. MENSCH
Born Brooklyn, NY, 1953
Education Brooklyn Museum Studio School, 1969
Art Students League, 1969
Hunter College, 1976 BFA: Painting
Awards Leica Camera, Solms, Germany, 1992
JM Kaplan Fund, The Last Waterfront project, 1985
The New York State Council on the Arts, Architecture
Photography and Design Grant, 1984
Drawing Scholarship Academia Di Belle Arte, Florence, Italy, 1972
2008 "Southstreet: The Photographs of Barbara Mensch"; The Southstreet Seaport Museum, New York, NY
2007 "Barbara Mensch NY"; The Museum of the City of New York, NY
2005 "New York: Some Kind of Paradise," Bonni Benrubi Gallery, NYC
Barbara Mensch: Water front; Photographic Gallery, New York, NY
2004 Republican Descent, NewburghPhoto, Newburgh, NY
South Street Seaport Museum, New York, NY
1998 KunstBalkon (Documenta X), Kassel, Germany
1993 Foster Goldstrom Gallery, New York, NY
1986 South Street Seaport Museum, New York, NY
1985 The Museum of the City of New York, NY
1981 Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
1981 P.S.1 Contemporary7 Art Center, New York, NY
The City Visible
By BONNIE YOCHELSON
Published: January 9, 2009
SHORTLY after graduating from Hunter College in 1978, the photographer Barbara Mensch moved from SoHo to the top floor of a walk-up on Water Street near the South Street Seaport. The charming but decrepit 19th-century brick building was shared by several artists, who sought the low rents and the seaport’s industrial grittiness. Ms. Mensch and her neighbors now own the building, which they have renovated.
From windows facing west and from the roof of her loft, Ms. Mensch has views of the Brooklyn Bridge’s span, the Manhattan entrance ramp and the Municipal Building. Recently added northern windows have created a special feature: Just outside looms the bridge’s massive limestone anchorage, its gargantuan scale dwarfing the viewer within.
Although Ms. Mensch is most widely known for her photographs of the old Fulton Fish Market, to which two books have been devoted, she has also photographed the Brooklyn Bridge for nearly 30 years. As Mont Sainte-Victoire was for Cezanne, the bridge has been a constant in her life and her art. Capturing the bridge at all times of the day and the seasons of the year, she has learned as much about the river and the weather as about the bridge’s structure.
Recently, Ms. Mensch has become fascinated with the bridge’s history, especially the story of Emily Roebling, right, the remarkable wife of the bridge’s engineer, Washington Roebling. When her husband fell ill with "the bends,” Emily masked the extent of his illness, acting as his surrogate for 14 years.
In his 1972 work "The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge,” the historian David McCullough writes: "By and by it was common gossip that hers was the real mind behind the great work and that this the most monumental engineering triumph of the age was actually the doing of a woman, which as a general proposition was taken in some quarters to be both preposterous and calamitous. In truth, she had by then a thorough grasp of the engineering involved.”
Despite opposition, she won over her critics, and at the 1883 opening, Emily Roebling took the first ceremonial ride across the bridge with President Chester Arthur.
Ms. Mensch has begun to assemble her Brooklyn Bridge photographs into a book called "Emily’s Bridge.” The photographs shown here, all taken during the past 16 years, express her intimate knowledge of the span as well as her unabashedly romantic view of it. Often shrouded in mist, Ms. Mensch’s bridge appears like an apparition from Emily’s bygone era.
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