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Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

If You Look by Sarah Mostow

Sarah Mostow wrote and illustrated an artists’ book inspired by what lies beneath the surface of the river, and by her own personal history with the Hudson. Each page contains an original painting or drawing depicting such images as a dead giraffe, Henry Hudson’s ship the Half Moon, and a view of the River seen from Sarah’s childhood home.


Sarah Mostow is a painter, artist book maker and teaching artist living in Brooklyn.  She has presented solo exhibitions at Columbia Greene Community College (2006) and the Philmont Library (2011) in upstate New York, and participated in group shows at A.I.R., the Blue Mountain Gallery, and the Brooklyn Artists Gym.