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An East Williamsburg Loft Full of Satyrs, Fairies, and Plants

“I don’t really know that there are many places left like this,” says artist TM Davy.

TM Davy in front of his painting three faerie friends. Two singing bowls are on the floor nearby. Photo: Wendy Goodman
TM Davy in front of his painting three faerie friends. Two singing bowls are on the floor nearby. Photo: Wendy Goodman

The works in artist TM Davy’s darkly enchanting show at Company Gallery, “Fae,” with their satyrs, fairies, tiny monsters, and magical caves, were made in a live-work loft with high ceilings and throwback charm in East Williamsburg that itself seems protected by a powerful bohemian spell.

Davy and his husband, gardener Liam O’Malley Davy, found the apartment on Craigslist in 2010 in a building that was once a sewing factory. It has a double-height main space where Davy paints, and the bedroom/study space is stacked over the kitchen.

North light is always preferable for painting, and their place faces south. “But you can’t have it all,” Davy says, laughing. “The plus is that my husband used to teach in a public school in this neighborhood, and it just kind of beat him up; he left teaching a few years ago, and he’s a gardener now. He’s working on Fire Island, and he’s brought a lot of plants into our life over the years, so that south light is really fantastic.”  Some of the containers filled with large plants beside us are also in the show.

The apartment is furnished with an array of collected things: “Mostly, a lot of it has been inherited, but honestly, the hallway is this great exchange in this building, at least it used to be this great exchange — you’d put things out and pick things up. I get paint on everything, so we don’t buy too-nice things. We’ve picked up a lot of stuff over the years.”

In 2017, after a series of rent increases threatened to price them out, they and their fellow tenants got together and appealed to the New York Loft Board.

“It was a weird nightmare,” Davy says. “A lot of people chickened out; they didn’t feel it was worth the stress. What were they afraid of? I don’t know what, exactly. I did feel that fear at the time, but I am glad we stuck with it.” In the end, their apartment became rent stabilized.

Davy says that back in 2011, “we debated me getting a separate studio, but I like to paint really late at night and then climb into bed and not have to think about the journey. So it works for me to kind of live/work.” Besides, he adds, “I don’t really know that there are many places left like this.”

The building’s tenants used to leave things they didn’t want out in the hallways for other tenants to take. Photo: Wendy Goodman
An area with the Irish harp Davy is teaching himself to play. Photo: Wendy Goodman
Davy says he purchased the yellow scaffold “to make my moonrise painting for MASS MoCA. I used it recently to hang new studio lights and might do another mural soon. I also just like it as a nook.” Photo: Wendy Goodman
In the stairwell, Davy says, “is a portrait I did of Sarah Michelson for her Devotion performance at the Kitchen.” Photo: Wendy Goodman
In Liam’s study is a painting from life of Paul Sepuya. “Paul is a genius photographer,” Davy says. “We would muse for each other often when he lived nearby, a story of intimate friendship and meaning making.” Photo: Wendy Goodman
Looking downstairs from the office space. Photo: Wendy Goodman
Liam’s office is tucked away upstairs. Photo: Wendy Goodman
Davy print of the painting of the London cast of Hanya Yanagihara’s stage adaptation of her novel A Little Life. “Hanya asked me to do it, and it became the cover of the published script for the play,” he says. “They had sent me lots of pictures of the guys, who were all rehearsing in London, so I put together a painting from that. I didn’t know them, so I felt I was painting the characters in the book. When I saw the play, I realized how truly perfect the casting was.” Photo: Wendy Goodman
The bedroom overlooks the loft. Photo: Wendy Goodman
You enter the kitchen with no clue about the wealth of space beyond. Photo: Wendy Goodman

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