Imagine three women enjoying a scenic boat ride in a Claude Monet painting.
Artist Greta Lood did not just imagine it; she made it happen. She invited two of her Filipino women friends to go rowing under Central Park’s Bow Bridge. Instead of wearing summer hats, each one cradled a dainty parasol.
There is something about New York City’s historic and most romantic park that inspires artistic visioning. Lood can attest to that.
She is drawn to the scattered elements that give Central Park its splendor—the river, arching bridges, trees, sun beams streaming through the leaves, even the laughter of lovers one hears but does not see.
The artist interprets the park’s sparkle using shadows and colors.
Asked why she was in love with Central Park, Lood replied with a hearty laughter, “It’s all in my paintings.” She has now so many, enough for a full-blown solo art exhibit.
“When I came to New York in 2008, I was looking for a group of artists who would paint at Central Park,” said the Zamboanga del Norte-born artist, the daughter of a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa.
When Lood could not find such a weekend art club, she created the Plein-Air Painters of Central Park, which now has 200 registered members, mostly New Yorkers, although only about 50 are active.
They go to Central Park once a week or once every two weeks. The artists spread out, finding their own spots in the 843-acre Manhattan landmark, unpack their tools and begin to create.
As they paint, they join the park’s moving pieces, like the families enjoying a picnic, the actors performing in a Shakespeare play at the Delacorte Theater or the children running around the vast lawn.
“Why do I love Central Park? First off, it’s close to my house,” said Lood, who lives just three blocks away. “I just cross the Jackie Onassis Reservoir.”
Her love of landscapes is another reason. “It’s nice to go out there and just paint what you see,” said the Fine Arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas. She is a member of the Society of Philippine-American Artists based in New York.
But it was not love at first sight for Lood and Central Park. The first time she came to New York in the 1980s, she avoided the park because of crime stories she read in the papers.
A jogger was savagely raped in Central Park by five young men in 1989. The story gripped the city and had many people avoiding the park for a while.
Things have changed a lot since. Lood said, “The city is much safer now and people have gone back to the park.”
Lood returned to live in the United States in 2003, first establishing residence in Florida. The single mother of four was, by then, an established artist and she was represented by IOMA Gallery.
One of the unique and revolutionary concepts of the painter, who is also an independent curator, was to present art shows in The Gardens Memorial Park, which resembled a beautiful museum, in the heart of Boca Raton.
At first, some artists were reluctant to participate in a show held in a mausoleum. But, by her third exhibition, they were the ones calling to participate in the shows.
Lood curated a total of eight shows, including the American Society of Media Photographers of South Florida, before moving to New York in 2008.
In New York, she met criminal defense lawyer Richard Charney, who she married last year.
Despite her love for Central Park, it was not until after she married Charney that they visited the park as a couple.
Lood, who has seen so many parks in her travels, considers Central Park one of the most beautiful in the world.
“When you step into the park, it’s like you’re not in New York City, but in a forest reserve,” she said.