Manhattan artist’s creative downsizing in a recession

By Dulcie Dee

Two weeks before Christmas of December 2008, I was suddenly laid off from my 9-5 PowerPoint designer job at an engineering firm. I went home disappointed, disgruntled, dejected and worried because it was the start of the downfall of the U.S. economy. Since 2008, jobs have become scarce and hard to come by with very few calls from temp agencies or recruiters to go on interviews for jobs as an executive assistant or freelance graphic designer.

How was I going to survive in costly NYC and pay for my downtown Manhattan apartment? Paint, eat and live without a steady job? Of course I fancied the idea that I was home during winter and had time to paint, but I needed to reduce my biggest overhead — my apartment. So I decided to move to a smaller studio apartment in my building. I sold my large white drafting table and gave away excess furniture, books and clothes.

As an artist, I surveyed my new smaller one-level studio space with a keen eye. I closed my eyes and imagined where all my furniture would go before I had the movers place them. There were only two windows in the studio space facing the back alley thus it was a much darker apartment with not much sunlight coming in and only two tiny small narrow closets instead of three in my former home. It depressed me that after six years, I had to give up my sunny one-bedroom loft facing Fulton Street, mini balcony with two wide big windows with great northern light for oil painting. No more people watching and standing in my black mini skirt, fish net stockings and high heels over my balcony waiting and blowing kisses to my Prince Charming!

Think Dulcie! How will you accommodate your guests who come to visit?

'Galerie Dee Bedroom' with double futon bed for couples

'Chic Bamboo Room' for single tourist/guest

'Ma Belle Salope 12'

I came up with an idea! I created a guest room and decorated it to make it feel like my Mindoro and Puerta Galera beach days and call it the “Chic Bamboo Room.” I smartly aligned my three white 6’ tall bookshelves side by side to form a wall, then laid my single futon bed down on the carpet, hung bamboo shades to give it an Asian flavor with a bamboo mat, a bamboo lamp, bamboo closet, and wooden chair with rattan seating.

I’ve been successfully renting my “Chic Bamboo Room” and “Galerie Dee Bedroom” to guests and tourists from all over the world who come to visit NY and want an alternative, comfortable, and reasonable place to rest and who enjoy sharing an apartment with a New York artist. Many guests have told me that my art studio apt is like an art gallery or museum and is so unique because of all the colorful, erotic geisha paintings hanging in the bedroom and in abstract mosaics in my kitchen. They are amazed it’s all done by one artist. Guests frequently request my apartment through the Airbnb website. Being a hostess keeps me very busy and allows me to stay home and paint and meet new people constantly.

When my guests are out of the apartment sightseeing, I paint in my art studio. I’m working on a new series of paintings “Ma Belle Salope Chinoise” (My Beautiful Chinese Bitch) and completed “The Sex Goddess” Series.

Renting out space, as I found out, is not for everyone. Privacy is the biggest casualty.

I have to constantly keep the art studio clean for guests and must do laundry every time guests depart to have the room ready for the next guests. It becomes difficult to return to sleep especially when guests return after midnight and wake up early for their appointment or scheduled flights.

On the other hand, the rewards are gratifying. I am able to make money to pay my rent and expenses on a monthly basis. I meet new people from different parts of the world, and receive compliments on my artwork.

Dee was born in New York City. She studied fine arts at the University of the Philippines and The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her work is a Zen fusion of East and West. She is slated to display one of her black and white photographs at the Sinag Annual Photography exhibition in June at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue.

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