“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
—John Milton, Paradise Lost
Parallel Pictures Press proudly presents New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco, Meryl Meisler’s scintillating new book that launched with exhibits at ClampArt and The Center for Photography at Woodstock. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco is an intimate journey to the pandemonium and paradise of the 1970s through early 1990s New York City. Meryl documented a tumultuous time in NYC’s history – epidemics of arson, crime, crack, and AIDS, intensified by a paralyzing blackout, political and fiscal crisis. Frequenting Manhattan’s legendary discos that arose amongst disorder, she captured hedonistic havens, celebrities, and revelers of the night. In contrast, daylight revealed the beauty of those who loved and thrived in burnt-out Bushwick, where she was a public school art teacher who photographed what she saw.
Her effervescent images are personal memoir – love letters filled with compassion and humor mixed with angst, kept secret for decades until she retired from teaching. Meryl was headed to Studio54 the night of the ‘77 Blackout; the next day, she and the world heard of Bushwick, a hellish neighborhood where fires and looting erupted. In 2013, at BIZARRE, a Bushwick Drag / Burlesque Nightclub, she noticed a disco ball in the restroom, another over the dance floor. OMG – an epiphany! Bushwick was now THE sizzling club scene. The disparate worlds of Bushwick and Disco collided, becoming intertwining strands of NYC’s story and her journey. She realized the two bodies of work belonged together.
Meryl’s internationally acclaimed books, A Tale of Two Cities Disco Era Bushwick (Bizarre 2014) and Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City (Bizarre 2015) were just tips of the iceberg. She kept digging into her archive, finding hidden treasures. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco takes a unique turn, from clandestine clubs into the classroom – students and staff creating a safer space to learn despite societal ills of poverty and prejudice. Her street photos radiate the joys of daily life amidst hardship. The nightlife images expose the edgiest, darkest activities she has ever shown. Flash forward four decades: Bushwick is a hub of new music, art, fashion, literature, nightlife, and creative thinking. Many bemoan the gentrification of neighborhoods like Bushwick. There are nostalgia and sorrow for what’s lost in the process of change. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco is a true story of the resilient human spirit – determination to preserve, revitalize, appreciate, and create anew.
New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco was made possible in part by a grant from The Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation