The story behind City Lines

"City Lines", 29 x 36 inches, Dye Drawing (cotton fabric, dye, stitching, batting) gallery wrapped over canvas stretcher frame, © Ayn Hanna

“City Lines”, 29 x 36 inches, Dye Drawing (cotton fabric, dye, stitching, batting) gallery wrapped over canvas stretcher frame, © Ayn Hanna

My first home in New York City was a shared loft space on the north side of the Williamsburg bridge.  I rode the subway into the city and back each day for work, and walked under the bridge to get home where I was frequently greeted by abandoned stolen cars, usually stripped of their wheels and often set on fire.  (Williamsburg was a different place back then in the early ’90’s.)

From the window of my studio, the bridge traffic was my movie.  For hours I studied the shapes and lines of the bridge and the buildings beyond it.  There was something comforting in the strength and solidity of that structure, especially as my own existence seemed so day to day.

"Williamsburg Bridge", 24 x 18 inches, etching @ Ayn Hanna

“Williamsburg Bridge”, 24 x 18 inches, etching @ Ayn Hanna

I jumped at the chance to move to the East Village when through a friend, I found a “deal” on my own studio apartment which had been abandoned – hadn’t been lived in for 20+ years (save for the homeless who had climbed through the broken windows to seek refuge) – and I agreed to fix the place up while living there, in exchange for a reduced rent.

NY apt

Finally, I had arrived – I was a young artist living in Manhattan!  Never mind I was advised to install locking window “gates” (which I procured and schlepped home on a dolly from a lower east side junk yard) as a safety measure, along with new window panes.  The entire space was less than 300 Sq. Ft. and it took 20 gallons of spackling compound to fill in the holes in the walls and ceiling.  But the place was mine, all mine.


The facade of our building seemed so plain given all the colorful characters that lived within.  My neighbors were either older Ukrainian’s that had lived there for decades, or other young artists finding their way.  I loved being able to walk to work, taking different routes to see the visual array of iron railings, fire escapes, and pieces of sky framed by the groups of buildings all lined up together.

"City Lines" (detail)

“City Lines” (detail)

All of these memories informed my recently completed piece, “City Lines”.  It is a dye drawing on cotton, stitched and mounted to a stretcher frame.  This is one of 15 of my textile painting pieces that are included in a 2 person show I’m doing with Barbara Gilhooly which opens this coming Saturday, May 16th, 3-6pm at Palette Contemporary Gallery in Albuquerque, NM.


What a time it was, living in NYC as a young artist.  And now I love being back in CO.  I actually love both the big city and the mountains, for very different reasons.  The postcard image above is “LineScape #29 (Tent Rocks)”, based on my memories of that special place.

Please join me this Saturday for the show opening if you can – you’ll be able to see “City Lines” and “Tent Rocks” in person and if you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be up through June 22.

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8 comments to The story behind City Lines

  • Wonderful to hear the story that prompts your style.

    • Ayn

      Thanks Arlee, I think it helps us all relate better to one another and our work when we share our inspirations and influences. Hope you are feeling better!

  • Love the story, Ayn. When were you in NYC? I was there from 1987-1998. Loved my time in Brooklyn, but never lived in Manhattan! Have a great opening!

    • Ayn

      I was there from 1990-1993, loved living in the East Village (on 7th street just around the corner from St. Marks) and the print studio i worked at was near broadway/canal….spent much of of my time in SOHO and Lower East Side, good times. So, our time in NYC did overlap – what part of Brooklyn were you living in? I haven’t been back to Williamsburg since i moved back to CO in ’93 – i hear its completely different now (in a good way). We’re looking forward to our weekend road trip!

  • mom

    What a fantastic site —- I love how you have paid so much attention to your “purposeful” life — You are a terrific example of how to live your life – how to enjoy and learn from life experiences….. My incredible daughter!! Love you!

    • Ayn

      Thanks, I do believe we attract all the people and experiences in life to us for a purpose and we’re all exactly where we need to be, even when it’s not clear as to why, in the moment.

  • Wow! I love hearing from you after all these years. I am so proud of you and your work is amazing. I love your direction. I retired from teaching printmaking, painting and drawing in a private high school on Maui, but still keep a printmaking studio there, and part time teach painting at the Hui No’eau Visual Art Center. Summers you will now find me in Crested Butte where I have an artist loft and spend my days outside plein air oil painting. Where are you set up, these days? Aloha, Hari

    • Ayn

      Oh Hari, so wonderful to hear from you, this makes my day! I’ve searched for you over the years on the interwebs, but wasn’t able to find you….so great to hear of your wonderful artist life in Maui AND in Crested Butte. I am in Fort Collins, CO so looks like we have a chance of reconnecting in person, at least sometime when you’re here painting in the blissful CO summertime. :-)

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