By Sophie Gruetzner
Our Village was once the home of many wonderful artists, poets and writers—Bob Dylan! Hunter S. Thompson! Today, many longtime residents mourn the fading vibe of this Bohemian lifestyle. Sure, numerous chic boutiques and fancy restaurants have opened over the past 10, 20 years, and the West Village has partly become a playground for rich millennials, but an artsy feeling still runs through the old cobblestone streets. One who is keeping this Bohemian vibe alive is Kazuya ‘Kaz’ Morimoto.
You can find him on one of those street corners, dressed in an elegant, yet casual, old-school style—wool pants, white dress shirt, checkered vest, newsboy cap—sitting on a little stool, painting the beautiful prewar buildings and parks, happily chatting with people passing by. It feels like witnessing a scene from a different era. And every time I see it, my heart happily skips a beat.
Kaz was born and raised in Japan and moved to New York in 2000. He has lived all over the City, from Chinatown and Washington Heights to Park Slope, Williamsburg, the Upper West Side, and eventually the West Village: “I love the Village because it’s charming and very picturesque”, says the 47-year-old artist. “It still feels like a true neighborhood where people greet each other.” And don’t be shy about talking to him: “I enjoy listening to residents who tell me old stories of how the Village was the center of the Bohemian movement. It makes me happy that they enjoy me painting on the street in a very classic style.” This classic style, in fact, is a wonderful mix of Japanese woodcut print and Western watercolor.
Does Kaz have any special memories? “Many. Once, my favorite actress, Liv Tyler, stopped by and bought a painting. I got so excited that I got a back spasm and couldn’t move. People wanted to call the ambulance but a storeowner on Bleecker Street offered me his sofa until it got better. That’s what I love about the West Village, too—the feeling of community.”
Be sure to pick up one of Kaz’ beautiful art works for $40 at Teich (573 Hudson Street, between West 11th and Bank Streets). They not only make great Christmas gifts but they also support an artist and local business—two things this neighborhood truly needs to preserve.
To view more of Kaz’ paintings, visit: kazuyamorimoto.com/.