The Inspiration Issue | Alex Karpovsky
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
Interview by Kristin McCracken
Portraits by David Brandon Geeting
Alex Karpovsky has been settling into the indie film fringes for the past decade, writing, directing, and (usually) starring in his own features like Red Flag , Rubberneck, and Woodpecker, and acting in like-minded New York films like Tiny Furniture, Gayby, and Sleepwalk With Me. Later this year, he’ll appear in the Coen brothers’ Cannes hit Inside Llewyn Davis. With his breakout role in Girls on HBO, Karpovsky has come to epitomize the current northern Brooklyn gestalt: understated, individualistic, a little neurotic, and nerdy, but in the best possible way. Karpovsky moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in 2004, making his home in the Polish neighborhood of Greenpoint just a few blocks from the coffee shop that his character manages on Girls, and he finds no shortage of inspiration in the outer borough.
In Karpovsky's words:
"The unifying theme for things that inspire me might be peace, calmness, and solitude. That’s one of the reasons why I will probably never live in Manhattan again. I have high-level sustained anxiety: I like open spaces and I don’t like to be crowded. So Manhattan felt dense, overwhelming and claustrophobic. I like a little elbow room, a little quiet, and Brooklyn offers that."
"I get inspired being near the water. I really like Red Hook for that reason. There are cobblestone streets, salt in the air, and I find it dreamy and romantic. One of my favorite bars in New York is Sunny’s, which is old and weathered by the sea. It looks like a little old shanty bar you might see in New England."
"I really like my neighborhood, Greenpoint. I live near McGolrick Park—a Polish park with an old-men-feeding-pigeons feeling. I'm an old man at heart. I like chamomile tea, my slippers. I just moved into a new place. It's on the quietest street around. I have a very small, peaceful backyard with a tree in it. Did I mention that it's quiet?"
"I’m a big bird-watcher. Their colors are very vivid and majestic, I love birdsong,and I like the hunt of looking for an elusive bird. Unlike a lot of other recreational activities and hobbies, there's nothing to physically walk away with; it's very experiential. There's something very relaxing about that. So I love Prospect Park because of all the birds you can find there."
"I write at home, because I have to pee like every eight minutes, and it looks weird to bring your laptop to the bathroom when you're working in a coffee shop. I'm also picky about music, lighting, temperature, and a lot of places don't have agave nectar. I actually like Café Grumpy a lot—it's one of the few places I could conceivably work at, but I think it's weird because my character works here."
"I'm waist-deep in designing my apartment. I'm going to a lot of salvage yards and antique/junk stores, looking for stuff that has a little bit of character. I'm looking for an aesthetic, coherent gestalt: a lot of dark wood, probably mid-to-late ’40s, just after the war. Bruised but functional. I pretend that I'm a handyman, so I feel like I can fix things, and usually I just end up not changing too much. But I try to. I'm going to stain some wood after this."
Pick up a copy of the third anniversary issue of Design Bureau to see the full story in good old-fashioned print
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