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Steve Schapiro, Martin Luther King Jr. (with Flag), Selma March, 1965 © Steve Schapiro & Fahey/Klein Gallery
Steve Schapiro, Martin Luther King Jr. (with Flag), Selma March, 1965 © Steve Schapiro & Fahey/Klein Gallery

My photography at the Chelsea Hotel investigates the power of place, and social and physical borderlines. The Chelsea is where I have felt the most comfortable being an artist since there was an accepting atmosphere. I lived there for the past 20 years. These photographs and stories are a journey through some of it’s past and present, and we can only imagine its future as the hotel is closed for renovations through 2017.

I met people such as Alexander McQueen who talked to me in the lobby, came to see my photographs and invited me to his fashion show. His use of partial nudity, the dark colors or war and the pale lace of peace inspired my photography.

Another influence was the skylight that hung over the famous staircase providing streams of light that drifted into the halls. I made a self-portrait wearing a Zac Posen dress as he was also absorbed by Bohemia, like myself, and had hung out there in his teens. People in the hotel saw me with my camera, and asked me to make their portrait, including the singer, Pal Shazar, for her new CD. Then a couple that were in from London celebrating their anniversary after his course in Miss Vera’s School of Cross Dressing, wanted a portrait.  I continued making portraits with many of the creative inhabitants and also took images exploring the aura of room interiors,  the building and its atmospheric, muted colors, and details.

It was truly an international meeting place where artists made contacts. There was always something going on – a Russian curator’s dialogue; a Goth party; Nina Hagan in town for a gig at the Limelight or a film envisioned by Marie Beatty, now living in France; a male angel with tiara sitting in the lobby everyday –intense events that just didn’t happen in other apartment buildings.

Madonna filmed her infamous, “Justify My Love,” Christo screwed off his bathroom doorknob and incorporated it into an artwork now in the collection of the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, D. C. His wife and collaborator Jean-Claude wrapped their Christmas tree, using coke bottles as ornaments, long before they wrapped Central Park and returned to the hotel to let me take their portrait. The intellectual history lingers in the cultural mind. The first new owner tried to evict me, and the second new owner stayed with the eviction; so even with a legal battle I had to leave as my 9th floor was  demolished and mold and dust took over. Unfortunately, lack of environmental code enforcements lead to leaving my home to save my health. Life at the Chelsea Hotel arrived in fragments, signs, things heard, and things felt, rather than chronologically charted. I will never forget the excitement of living life that way.

Living in the Chelsea Hotel
By Linda Troeller
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
ISBN : 9780764349850
$34.99 (USD)

Living in the Chelsea Hotel
By Linda Troeller
In part of PhotoNola Festival
From December 10th 2015 to January 30, 2016
Coup d’Oeil Art Consortium Art Gallery
2033 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 722-0876

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