Faces of AWNY: Clare Gemima

Clare Gemima is a Kiwi digital & mixed media artist and a gallery columnist for East Village Grieve. We talk to her about what it’s like to live in Manhattan’s famed East Village as a working artist and what she loves, hates and can’t get enough of New York City.

Clare Gemima. Photo credit: Supplied

Hi Clare! Let’s start with some background about yourself – why you moved to NYC? Where are you from in Australia? How long have you lived in NYC? 

I NEED TO CLARIFY LOUD AND CLEAR THAT I AM A PROUD KIWI GIRL. Although I was born in Melbourne, I moved to New Zealand when I was 11 days old and stayed there until I was 25. After graduating university, I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship that included a flight to New York and assistance with my student visa. The gift of being given a year to explore and submerge myself into the American art world, culture and chaos has been as tumultuous and exhilarating as it sounds. The rewards have been so, so high. I’ve now been living in New York for nearly 3 years, surviving a bizarre presidency, a global pandemic and the size of the rats in downtown tripling in size over the last year. 

As a working artist in New York City my art practice is focused on negotiating methodologies that consider dimensionality and design, while playing with online and offline conflicts. I am intrigued by how the internet and overt screen use can condition pivotal moments for us in real life. In my work, I use sound, moving image and large scale installation as tools to immerse and confront viewers by creating existential and observational visual experiments both in private and public spaces. If you scroll down you can see some of my latest work included in this article.

What neighborhood do you live in and why did you choose that area?

I live where I work, which is extremely handy, in the East Village of Manhattan. This is where I believe is the best place in the city to live – challenge me!

What do you like and dislike about living in NY?

I have a lot to say for this question…Some days I find myself in a love/hate relationship with New York because it is so glamorized in the media and projected onto the outside world as the place to be, to make it, where it counts etc. But when you’re here and it’s minus zero degrees and your hands and ears are about to fall off (I wish I was exaggerating), it’s hard to stay positive. One needs to embrace a healthy balance… As an example: 

I hate the winter, I love Veselkas. 

I hate the drug dealer that sits in my driveway, but I love hearing life stories from the people he sells to. 

I hate the maskless invincibles that sit in the subway as if they are immortal. I love it when I hear morning yelling at Tompkins Square dog park or when I walk past Natasha Lyonne filming Russian Doll on 1st Ave…I hate loving New York and I love hating New York. 

I love New York. God, there is no other city like it. But I really miss the beach! Make me stop!

Tell us one of your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?

Getting so excited and bombarding a stranger to take a photo of me and Reese Witherspoon when I worked at the MoMA, only to later realize that the stranger was actually Laura Dern. My boss could’ve just about killed me.

Clare Gemima, On it, TV, video, LED Lights with gold mirror frame,1189 x 481mm. Geoff’s, silver, laser etched mirror, velvet acrylic with sticker PVC frill, dimensions varied. (2018). Photo credit: Supplied

What’s your favorite New York spot?

I love biking through the East River Park, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taking the dog to Tompkins Square Park and oh, love the FIDI area at the moment. Tribeca is also great, so is Chelsea…can I just say everywhere? I’m also trying to find more excuses to get to Brooklyn. 

Anything you miss about New Zealand?

What I miss about New Zealand most are my chosen family and the nation’s collective consciousness. Being away from home during COVID has presented a lot of difficulties, some grand and some micro. Sometimes you just want to hear a familiar accent. I miss whitebait fritters and tim tams! 

And in Australia, my cousin has recently had a son that I am waiting to meet 🙂 Also miss visiting Melbourne because it is one of the coolest places in the world.

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  • Carry cash, always
  • DO NOT fall asleep on the subway 
  • Always use the bathroom before you leave to explore New York or you will be in a pickle 
  • Avoid museums on a rainy day because they are chaos 
  • Wear good shoes, you will be walking a lot

You said top 3, but there really is about 3000+ tips that I wish I had learnt before moving here.

What’s your favorite NYC brunch spot?

V-nam Cafe because I’m a cheapskate and you wont find a better bahn-mi in the city. Also, love Punjabi which makes affordable vegetarian Indian food. I don’t think I can afford brunch in New York anymore haha (crying internally).

Clare Gemima, TBT (tennis, beer, tits), 2020. Pixel based mosaic. 24 x 30 in. Photo credit: Supplied

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice

Anywhere you take me on a date. DM me on Instagram at instagram.com/tear_________

What was your biggest win this week?

Getting to travel internationally with my job. Although it was a little weird navigating it in a Covid world. As much as I love New York, sometimes you have to leave to appreciate it from afar!

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?

New York City is a cruel place to live. It is hard to survive here because rent is so high, wages are so low and it can cause a lot of people to become jaded. I’ve tried to find as many free activities, places and events to attend throughout my time here. It’s a great way to meet people, gain access to healthcare (don’t get me started!) and have the ability to eventually buy yourself the occasional nice treat (in Brooklyn!).

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living/working in NYC?

That no one owes you a damn thing!!!

Who are some Aussie or Kiwi ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?

I actually dont have a good enough answer for this one as I haven’t met as many Aussie or Kiwi women in New York as I would have liked. I am looking forward to events that can be held in person so I can meet more of the community. I was lucky to be a participant in the AWNY Artists Way group that was run by the amazing Kate Lee last year. I would highly recommend becoming part of this amazing community of women to any fellow Tasman Queen. 

Connect with Clare

Author: Tarley Jordan

Tarley has been an AWNY volunteer since 2012. She is award-winning marketer from Sydney (with stops in Brisbane and Rockhampton), who moved to New York for love. Find her on Instagram: @tarleyj

4 thoughts

  1. Clare Gemima is my granddaughter I am immensely proud of her
    I am her nearest relative – together with whanau
    We are of Maori ancestry Ngati Raukawa Otaki
    Clare domiciled in New York having been awarded
    a scholarship from New Zealand

  2. I met Clare when she first got to New York; in the subway of all places. She is one of the strongest, most beautiful human beings I have ever met. I’m very proud of her ability to stick around and have the gumption to be brave and resilient at anything thrown her way. She’s a talented artist and a creative mind. Clare is a rare gem in this world of seemingly endless drones. She’s very special, and New York is lucky to have her.

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