Pictured is Marisa Scheinfeld's Grandma Hattie (left), Great Grandma Ada (middle), Marisa, and her Grandma Ruth (right) - three of the most important women in her life. Great Grandma Ada passed when she was 13 and both Grandmothers, Hattie and Ruth, passed in March and May of 2021 respectively. Their passing caused her to think a lot about life, what's important (and what isn’t). In this photograph she considers 3 special women, each who spent so much time in the Catskills. They are an integral part of her story along with the collective history of the land she loves.
A true advocate for our home in the Catskills and just as loved by the same community, Marisa Scheinfeld is a common name in Narrowsburg and far beyond. She is a photographer, author, and educator born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in the Catskills. Marisa considers herself a visual historian. Her process combines research, photography, and text to make works in the context of history, time, and place. Her work is motivated by an interest in the landscape and its embedded histories, both apparent and hidden. We are consistently in awe of her talent to capture her audience portraying otherwise abandoned landscapes into a bright, romantic, dreamscape. Earlier projects are rooted in a more personal, autobiographical understanding of time and place while her newer work considers a wider cultural history within the regional landscape of the Catskills and Hudson Valley.
1. What is your favorite part of the creative process?
As a photographer, the image-making process itself is obviously one of the most exciting parts however, I find that the research, driving, and scouting out the landscape are equally as engaging. I love the sheer hunt of it — finding locations I am interested in photographing, visiting them multiple times to seek out their best lighting, and the conversations and connections that end up transpiring. These often happen with complete strangers who in turn become my resource and my guides. They (along with family and friends) are the ones who help me piece together essential information about the history, while I consider each location in its most contemporary moments.
2. What is your favorite creation that you have brought to existence?
I would have to say my three year old son, Jack. It took almost 3 years to conceive him and the process was a rollercoaster of emotion and included a lot of sadness, and depression. I am so grateful he is here. Other favorite creations are my 2016 monograph The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland. Located in the Catskill Mountains, the Borscht Belt bloomed from the 1920s through the 1970s and served as a social and cultural gathering place for American Jews as well as a refuge from the prevalent anti-Semitism and discriminatory laws of the time. Having grown up in this region, I saw an opportunity to document and preserve what remained. My newest ongoing project, Once Upon A Time, is a project I’ve been working on for a few years. It was conceptualized while I was pregnant, stalled because of early motherhood combined with the pandemic, and now slowly shaping into something I am incredibly excited about. The project will draw from the well-recognized fairytale preamble while calling attention to marginalized, complex, hidden, and unseen histories in New York’s Catskills and Hudson Valley. Sourcing from regional and oral history (including fact, lore and legend) the series chronicles outlying and overlooked places in the landscape where notable and significant events have taken place. The photograph below (taken May 13, 2022 by Kelly Marsh from the Times Herald Record) is of myself and sculptor Zac Max saran-wrapping up a sculpture that is one of the only remaining traces left from Shenk’s Paramount Hotel in South Fallsburg. Schenk’s was one of over 500 hotels that thrived during the Borscht Belt era. I’ve had my eye on this sculpture since 2011 when I began working on The Borscht Belt. It is one of the last remaining sculptural relics of the era. In fact, it's one of the few sculptures I’ve ever found and a rare and special piece. For context, I am including a postcard of Shenk’s in its heyday, produced during the 1950s along with a photograph I took of the sculpture on May 13. When I found out the hotel’s card room, which the sculpture sits in front of, was demolished this past March, I knew I had to act quickly and that time was imminent. Schenk’s is presently an Orthodox camp and for the past decade or so the card room was used as a synagogue (which is pretty cool). After calling the owners of the camp they agreed to donate it to a group of people, including myself, making efforts to create a museum in the region. The sculpture was removed that day and the plan is to restore and reinstall in Ellenville, NY. The artist who created it is the biggest mystery. I am working to find out who its maker was — a real quest because the artist is likely long gone from this world. As a result, I am contacting local archives, local historians and even looking into old facebook threads to fill in the blanks. Facebook, for better or worse, has actually yielded the most leads thus far. I suppose, I have a few favorites.
3. What aesthetic are you most drawn to?
I am most attentive to relics, remains, and artifacts of the built and natural environment, particularly as they transform over time.
4. What is your favorite room in the home?
Honestly, my bedroom. Between being a parent to a toddler, working on my second book, teaching at Purchase College along with other side projects, one could say I have a lot on my plate. While exhausting, I have learned that I'm my best when busy. When I am stagnant, I get too much in my head, and in my own way. Regarding my bedroom, I am often in bed around 8:30 pm just after my son goes to sleep. It may seem very grandma-like, but I am totally fine with it because I need all the energy I can get!
5. What is your favorite design from Sunny’s Pop?
I am a fan of so many items from Sunny’s Pop. This also includes Sunny, who has been so welcoming to me and my work. Sunny continually keeps a stock of The Borscht Belt in her shop and I am so appreciative of that. The L’impulsive vase is hands down one of my favorite items. It’s shade of blue is so lush and when I look at it, I feel calm and relaxed. I am also a huge fan of a wind-chime I once picked up at the shop. For me it evokes a squid and is both peculiar and beautiful in its material, shape and sound. When people see it hanging on my porch, I get a lot of questions.