Forest Avenue in Montgomery

For the literalists out there, yes, there is a Forest Avenue on the Montgomery map.  But that is not the Forest Avenue in the title. 

The Sarah Yuster painting hangs on my living room wall in the morning light.


Forest Avenue-Plowed, the painting shown here, is what the title’s about.  This Forest Avenue is on Staten Island, around the corner from the house that Mr. Newyorker and I lived in for 26 years.  It’s captured in oil on canvas, and now hangs in Montgomery, Alabama

Its creation, our acquisition of it, and its journey all seem tied together with our journey from New York to live in the South. 

I love Sarah Yuster’s paintings and the closest I’ve come to owning one is having a print of her iconic painting of Victory Blvd from the intersection with Forest Avenue — the one that shows Manhattan and the twin towers from a perspective that’s a revelation to anyone not from Staten Island. 

We’re generally small-time art buyers who will spend a couple of hundred dollars on an etching, but generally don’t even consider something like this.  Anyway, in Staten Island we didn’t have the room. 

But back in the spring, Sarah posted this on Facebook and I was smitten.  It’s an image of Forest Avenue in the lee of a winter storm, most likely the following morning, right after it’s been plowed down to the pavement.  The storm is past, but Sarah captures its power in the clouds.  The sun at the crest of the road ahead promises that the storm is indeed past; a single car travels uphill.  It’s that time between the storm and the resumption of life as usual.   

I’ve tried to figure out exactly what her vantage point was–I suspect a ladder in the middle of Forest Avenue just below Silver Lake Park Road.  Just two short blocks up from our house, and there, on the right, is the bus stop at which I’d waited many morning for the R48 to take me to the ferry or the X31 to go all the way to 57th Street via New Jersey. 

And when was it taken? There were a couple of big  storms this winter, one of them began on the very day that we closed on the Staten Island house; the day after the movers had left the Island–did they make a left onto Forest Avenue?–with all of our worldly goods bound for Alabama. 

Sarah sent me scans which I had printed in color.  I pinned  them to my wall at work, and decided that the painting would tell me if it should come down south. 

Colleagues who saw the print urged me to get the painting. One pointed to the car making its way uphill and said, “That’s you two leaving and coming here, coming to the light. You HAVE to get this painting.” 

So, I did.  I let Sarah know and then I let Mr. NewYorker know (on our anniversay).  And then we waited, for the exhibit to be over, for vacations to be done, and for the weather to cool down a bit. 

Sarah investigated shipping options, and we agreed that it could be entrusted with FedEx as long as we were here to sign for it.  Only Sarah can really tell the story of the countless hours she spent researching packing materials, consulting with various experts, and finally spending an hour hovering outside the “secure room” into which she was not allowed but into which she could see the actual packing taking place. 

And then we tracked it, especially on the final day.  Guaranteed to arrive by 4:30 pm, it arrived at 4:27.  All day I worried about its baking inside a FedEx oven in the 95-degree heat.  So did Sarah, but on one of her multiple calls to FedEx she was assured that both their trucks  and their holding facilities were air-conditioned. 

It arrived and Mr. NewYorker’s clear instructions were to cut and peel the plastic from the painting.  He confesses that his hands shook as he imagined taking the pigment with the plastic. 

But all is well.  I walk out of my bedroom in the morning and, as I enter the dining room, look to my right to see this luminous story in oil.  I see that the weather clears after storms, that we travel on, and that sometimes our travels are far away from where we grew up.  But we can keep those places with us, in our hearts and on our wall.


One Response

  1. That’s a lovely painting, Maureen. Glad to know another art collector. Come to my house to see what my obssesion with art has done to my life. Poor Kendal. He has to endure.

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