Ridge artist’s work brims with local meaning

Bay Ridge-based artist Alicia Degener has been painting the world around her for close to a decade.

That world includes old-school Brooklyn brownstones, the landmark Coney Island Wonder Wheel and the now-shuttered but storied Vegas Diner – to name a few.

Her work – which has been on display and for sale in galleries and local storefronts alike – will be up for viewing and purchase starting Thursday, November 16 at the Coop. The exhibit – dubbed “Bay Ridge/South Brooklyn ‘Scapes’” – will run for a month, according to the local artist.

“The Coop has been great to me,” said Degener who studied at both Parsons School of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago. “Normally I don’t have anything to do with coffee shops and restaurants because the art is more for decoration and the artists don’t get too much out of it. But this has been incredible. They want local artists shown here and their customers support it, which you don’t really see a lot of today.”

This is her second solo show at the Bay Ridge coffee shop, though she has also participated in group showings.

As for her work, the local resident has honed in on her hometown, and the ‘hoods that surround it.

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Meaghan McGoldrick
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Meaghan McGoldrick

“I pretty much just paint what’s around me,” said Degener, a Detroit native and mother of two who relocated to southern Brooklyn in 1986 and specifically to Bay Ridge in 1997. Today, she is one of 70 area artists who have have affordable gallery space at Chashama Open Studios, supported by Anita Durst and the Durst Foundation.

“I have a studio at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and I live in Bay Ridge so there’s so much beauty around me and on my way to work,” she said. “You can’t miss these things.”

Though, according to Degener, the inspiration extends well beyond just her subjects’ architecture. “South Brooklyn is not just about brownstones for me, it’s also about the food,” she said. “Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Junior’s Cheesecake, Bay Ridge’s own Pizza Wagon and gone-but-not-forgotten disco fries from the Vegas Diner are all iconic.”

As are the bridges that connect the boroughs. “Bridges are also a part of my artistic vision,” Degener said, pointing, to start, at a massive depiction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which long hung in the window of Skinfints, but now hangs at the Coop and is also available for sale as part of this exhibit.

Her pieces are as vibrant and eccentric as they are surprisingly accurate and reminiscent of each subject – an impressive feat that allows for something for everyone.

“The Brooklyn I see has an odd sense of perspective, full of color and patterns and a desire to hang onto a vision of itself that is disappearing,” she said. “I hope everyone enjoys my view of Bay Ridge and south Brooklyn.”

Degener, though painting to make a living, has also lent her talents to the community she calls home. Most recently, she donated art to the newly remodeled Fort Hamilton Senior Center, and plans to work with volunteers on a forthcoming mural for its exterior. She also donates her work to local charity events for raffle and auction.

“It’s important to make the community your own,” said the artist, who most certainly does that on and off-canvas.

Degener’s show at The Coop will have a grand opening reception Thursday evening, starting at 7 p.m. For more information on Degener, visit www.aliciadegener.com.

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