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Nyack Sketch Log: Hopper Brings the Flash Sketch Mob Back to Life

The Nyack Sketch Log returns from a too looooong hiatus to celebrate the re-launch of the Flash Sketch Mob. The occasion of the first Flash Sketch Mob in Nyack since 2015 is the Edward Hopper House Museum’s inaugural Hopper’s Nyack Plein Air Pop-Up Weekend (July 13-14, 2024). Their two-day event combines a local creative experience and destination event that takes place throughout Nyack with an embrace of the legacy and art making practice of both Edward Hopper and his wife Jo Nivison, and as a hat tip to their 100th wedding anniversary, today July 9.

Birth of the Flash Sketch Mob

The public art project that became the Flash Sketch Mob was born from an early Nyack Sketch Log essay entitled: Nyack Sketch Log Versus Google Maps. The column bemoans the banal archive of our existence that the Google Map’s pericope car was making of our village. There was no skepticism directed at the utility of Google Maps, but an outcry that the record of our life – frozen in time like the silhouettes in Pompeii, were being manufactured by machines, not human hands.

I envisioned an army of John Henrys with pens and brushes in hand, racing to pre-assigned coordinates to record every inch of our one square mile village, creating a hand drawn google map.

In 2012, one hundred artists captured all of Broadway from Cedar Hill to Second Avenue after being given the rallying cry: Veni, Vidi, Sketchi! You can see their creations here.

In 2015, joined by my life partner Marisol Diaz, images of Main Street from Broadway to Franklin were collected by another century of creatives. In subsequent years, students at Liberty Elementary made a crowd-sourced landscape portrait of their school. There was a Farmers market flash mob and during COVID a virtual mob was assembled, but the project did not return to collect the street grid of Nyack until now, thanks to the ambitious engagement activities of the Edward Hopper House.

Hopper’s Nyack Plein Air Pop-Up Weekend

The concept and inspiration for the weekend will be set forth in a lecture and presentation by Elizabeth Thompson Colleary entitled “Painting In the Open Air. ” Colleary will present numerous oils and watercolors, many rarely seen, that Jo Nivison and Edward Hopper painted in outdoor settings where they found inspiration.

In the years before their romance began with outdoor sketching trips in Gloucester in the summer of 1923, both artists had embraced the freshness and spontaneity found painting outside on sunny days in scenic locales. They each produced numerous small oil studies on canvas and board — some in preparation for larger works completed in the studio, others executed and now embraced as finished works that captured bright, fleeting views of earth and sky with quick brushstrokes and rich, pure color.

After their marriage – 100 years ago this day, July 9th – they continued the practice of painting “en plein air” but now they worked side by side outdoors, creating virtually identical watercolor compositions that are revelatory for the insights they provide into the Hoppers’ painting practices and influences on each other’s work.

The Flash Sketch Mob is not the only activity during Hopper’s Pop-Up Plein Air Weekend.

Here is the full weekend calendar of events, with links to booking tickets and to registerter your particpation:

Saturday, July 13, 11a-12:30p (book tickets here
Lunchtime Lecture: Jo Nivison and Edward Hopper: Painting “In the Open Air,” at the Edward Hopper House Museum, 82 North Broadway

Saturday, July 13, 1:00p-3:00p (pre register here, day of attendess welcome too)
“Hopper’s Nyack ‘Flash Sketch Mob’” gather at Edward Hopper House Museum, 82 North Broadway

Sunday, July 14, 2024, 11a-4p (Free community event; pre-register here; day of attendess welcome)

Family Pop-Up Plein-Air Painting: Nyack Memorial Park (suggested donation to register) In partnership with Creative Arts Workshop 

Adult Plein-Air Painting (Free community event) (pre register here, day of attendess welcome)

Sunday, July 14, 2024, 1p-3p (pre register here, day of attendess welcome)
“Would be Artist” Family Walking Tours, Edward Hopper House Museum

What’s Next for the Flash Sketch Mob

During its 13 years of documenting the history of the Village of Nyack with a weekly essay and illustration, several art and civic projects emerged from the Nyack Sketch Log.

The Bench by the Road memorial to Cynthia Hesdra and the Underground Railroad in Nyack, unveiled by Toni Morrison, sprang from a column about a dilapidated shack.

The Nyack Record Shop project came into fruition through a collaboration between the Nyack Sketch Log and the Edward Hopper House as a community component to the museum’s Carrie Mae Weems exhibit in 2019. Dozens of oral histories of African American residents were collected in the window of Main Street Beat and are now a permanent part of the collection of the Nyack Library.

As meaningful as both of those projects are, the participatory and preservationist aspects of outdoor art making that commemorates shared living space makes the Flash Sketch Mob march on.

The Flash Sketch Mob will continue to be a part of future Hopper Birthday weekend celebrations as a way of paying homage to Jo and Ed, two star-crossed creatives, painting side-by-side in the town where they lay side-by -side in eternal repose at Oak Hill Cemetery. Observational art making is a great way for visitors to experience our village, leaving behind a record of their perspective.

And for those of us who live here, what better way to reacquaint ourselves with a landscape animated by light reflected by a river that inspired America’s most renowned realist painter. The unexamined place is not worth inhabiting.

The more we learn about where we live, the more zealous we can be in her defense.

Join the Hopper Flash Sketch Mob and become better acquainted with our community.

Special thanks to Kathie Bennewitz, Charis Braun, Kris Burns, Marisol Diaz and Mike Hays.

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