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16.000 x 20.000 x 2.000 inches
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In The Way Of Spindrift Jan Bryant Bartell
Painting - Oil On Canvas
Spindrift usually refers to spray, particularly to the spray blown from cresting waves during a gale. This spray, which "drifts" in the direction of the gale, is one of the characteristics of a wind speed of 8 Beaufort and higher at sea.
In Great Britain "spindrift" is the telltale sign used by mariners to define a Force 8 (Beaufort Scale) wind (not higher) when observed at sea.
This book is about a spray from a psychic sea, as Jan Bryant Bartell herself coined the phrase, and is the story of her own personal experience in an 1850s townhouse on 10th street in west side of Greenwich Village.
Jan Bryant Bartell was an actress who claimed she was haunted for 12 years in her lovely, historic Greenwich Village townhouse. But when she and her husband finally moved, the hauntings followed them. She begins to think she herself is haunted, not the dwellings, and she remembers earlier incidents of psychic activity in her life. The author died under mysterious circumstances at a relatively young age before the book was published. The book gives an interesting slant on bohemian New York City life in New York's Greenwich Village, West side.
She married Fred G. Bartell, manager of The Riverboat, a restaurant located in the Empire State Building, New York City, not far from this townhouse.
Jan worked as an actress, starring in Bell Book and Candle and Night must fall on stage in New York. Also a poet and author. She wrote one book entitled "Spindrift: A Spray From a Psychic Sea," published by Hawthorne in 1973. Jan was an animal lover who adored dogs. She wrote a tribute to her beloved dog, Penny and after Penny's death wrote a tribute to her which was later published in a magazine for dog owners.
Prior to her death, Jan and Fred Bartell moved from New York City to New Rochelle, NY. She died unexpectedly at her home on June 18, 1973, just before Spindrift was published.
The apartment 14 has earned the nickname The House of Death.
Residents have reported seeing the ghost of Mark Twain walking about in white suit and hair, along with a spectral cat waving its tail and a woman in a long flowing gown passing through doorways.
But some say there's a curse that touches people who live there. Jan died under mysterious circumstances just a few weeks after finishing her manuscript about her experiences in the house. Most notoriously, No. 14 was the site of a grisly murder in 1987 when former criminal defense attorney Joel Steinberg beat a 6-year-old girl to death.
I read the book and found Jan Bartell so charming and such a poignant figure I was compelled to paint her in front of the townhouse she so happily moved into in 1958.
After a lot of searching for an apartment, something other than the L-shaped cubicles she had seen, layered one atop the other in monumental monotony, she was so pleased to find herself facing the possibility of renting and living in a lovely townhouse, built in the 1850s. The building attached once lived in by Mark Twain himself, and she and her husband were both Twain afficiendos.
It was a lovely street, graced by trees, nestled in Greenwich Village at a time when it was most wonderful, perfectly suited for an actress and a poet. How could she resist.
But as she herself wrote in her book, Spindrift:
"Covetously, I gazed at the town house. My town house! High on its stoop it sat, the color of clotted cream...If only I had lingered. A fine spray had blown in upon me from an uncharted psychic sea. A spindrift warning from some far and frightening dimension I was, as yet aware of but dimly. If only I had heeded it. Asked questions. But having asked, would I have believed?"
As a tribute to a lovely woman whom I wish I had met, and a writer whose book so captured me, I hope somewhere she is pleased with my portrait of her.
August 19th, 2013
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