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Oral History Subject and Artistic Inspiration: Christina Maile

At our December 8, 2022 program “Village Preservation at Westbeth Gallery’s Winter Show”, the public had the opportunity to hear directly from artist and Westbeth resident Christina Maile. Christina is trained as a landscape architect, but writes, paints, and etches. Her work delves into issues including colonialism, feminism, and extinction, as well as her Dayak (Borneo, Malaysia) and West Indian (Trinidad) heritage.

Christina had a wealth of knowledge to share about Westbeth Artists Housing, where she has lived since it’s opening more than a half century ago. The program also served as a great introduction to Christina’s newly-released oral history with Village Preservation, available on our website here.

Westbeth: A Community of Artists

A resident of Westbeth since 1970, one of Christina’s many roles there is working to preserve and archive the community’s history via its website and other initiatives. One of Christina’s posts on Westbeth’s blog begins: “Westbeth gave me an extraordinary life in the most ordinary of ways–affordable rent and a supportive community.” This is a telling introduction to the impact Westbeth had on this prolific artists’ life. By reading this blog on the Westbeth Chronicles entitled “Founding of Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective, Part 1” one begins to see the impact Christina in turn had on Westbeth.

2022 Winter Show at Westbeth Gallery

The event at Westbeth highlighted artists who have work in the 2022 Winter Show at Westbeth Gallery. Christina’s work is stunning and a highlight of the very impressive show (which runs through December 16th, 2022 and is an annual event — we hope you check it out.)

The conversation with the artists was fascinating and gave attendees and anyone who watches the video of the panel some insight into what it is like to live and work in such a unique housing community. Skip to 4:00 to hear Christina introduce herself. Then watch (from the view of the moderator) as the discussion between the artists deepens to share the aspects of Westbeth that makes it a place so special that representatives of cities around the world come to visit and learn about how Westbeth works for artists in New York City.

A few of the newest artists to move into Westbeth shared the experience of moving in with their children. At 18:35 in the video below, one can hear Christina share the impact of living at Westbeth has on the children of artists. The intergenerational nature of Westbeth not only creates an environment for artists to thrive, but also encourages families to grow together and develop future patrons and lovers of the arts.

In one interview with Christina, the interviewer states of Christina’s work: “There are recurring symbols in your prints and paintings, like the fox, birds, fish—and allusions to unseen forces.” Christina responds by saying:

“It goes back to trying to make a connection with a world that exists in a parallel universe. I feel surrounding me there are various charms or beneficent spirits that you have to allay. So some of these prints and sculptures and paintings are a way of making these spirits feel not hostile toward me because I’m invading their space—to acknowledge that I want to be part of them.”

An incon living and working in Greenwich Village

On November 3rd, 2022 Christina was honored as a writer, painter, printmaker, sculptor and landscape architect and one of the original Westbeth tenants as a “Westbeth Icon.” This event and the video are a wonderful supplement to the oral history that Village Preservation has to share.

The video begins with Erin Quinn Purcell, President of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council (WARC) introducing Christina. Erin charmingly shares that she collects “Christina’isms” which gives one insight into the impact Christina has on this community of artists, both formally and informally. You will also hear reference to Christina’s “solitary bee houses.”

This film and award ceremony celebrate an artist and local community member that Village Preservation is honored to include in our oral history collection. We hope you get to know Christina Maile’s work and impact via our oral history and support her work at Westbeth–both artistically and as a part of this unique artist community that deeply impacts our neighborhoods.

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