Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Spirit Animal

I think Julian Schnabel might be my spirit animal. It wasn’t a shamanic experience that gave me that impression; just a series of events that led me to draw some kind of strange inspiration from a celebrity artist who I know little about.

It started years ago when I first declared myself an artist. I rented his film “Basquiat.” I knew nothing about the 1980’s art scene or much of anything else to do with art. I knew that I liked to paint with the same recklessness Schnabel captures in his film. Sadly, it was falling from this innocent recklessness that led me to become bored with my own artwork over the years and led to my current indefinite sabbatical. It was the first act of that movie that led me to give a bunch of slides and an arrogant letter to Bruno Bischofberger, who surprisingly never got back to me.

Over the years I learned more about Jean Michel Basquiat as a result of that film, but it wasn’t until years later that I tried to figure out who this “Julian Schnabel” was. Art students talked about him at parties and largely derided him. This piqued my interest because they were largely douche bags. I went out and bought a monograph of his and found myself inspired. His painting was just the kind of work I wanted to do; big, bold and wildly unacademic. Pretentious art students be damned.

Then last Spring I was helping a customer carry a large antique ladder to his house and he pointed out Schnabel’s building, the Palazzo Chupi. I had already been amazed by the building. It is easily my second favorite building in New York City. It’s a welcome counterpoint to the ugly glass buildings on the West Side Highway.

Then there was the great interview I heard soon after that on NPR. And finally I actually got to meet the guy in my shop. In accordance with my own personal code of professional decorum, I pretended to have no idea who he was, but was very pleased to see that the rumors I heard about him hanging around in pajamas were true.

Now, I refuse to call anyone a hero. But a guy who makes millions off his own rampant creativity, builds the greatest apartment building I’ve ever seen despite criticism, treats humble furniture salesmen with respect and hangs around in his pajamas all day? That guy’s my spirit animal.

The Lost Works

Over the years I've sold many paintings, given a few too many away and in rare cases lost them. Here is a public record of the lost works.

1. Hot Cuppa Zuppa - This was my very first large scale acrylic painting. It was an expressionist view of the interior of a cafe mostly in red. It was canvas stretched over a large piece of a crate. I liked it. My roommate wanted me to get it out of the way of the TV but I didn't know where to put it as space was at a premium in that apartment. Anyways, one New Years eve many moons ago, a girl I was dating offered to store it in her studio for me. I was delighted and carried it to her car ,kissed her good night and went to sleep.

I called once to ask her out for dinner. A week later, I called again to ask for the painting back. Another week later, I called one last time to see if she'd just leave the painting somewhere I could pick it up.

I never heard from her again.

2. Untitled - Acrylic on paper. I sold this one to a woman named Katie in Boston. Two weeks later it was stolen off her wall. It was kind of a saccharine painting of two people intertwined. In a way, it was an honor that someone would blatantly steal one of my paintings. Mostly, I'm pissed because Katie paid for it and got screwed in the deal.

3. Nude Reclining - This was HUGE. It was a larger than life sized Matisse-esque pink nude laying on a striped comforter. It really flowed. I loved it. But, after it was saved from an apartment fire I gave it to neighbor to donate to the Dance Complex in Central Square Cambridge for a fundraiser auction. Months later I asked about the painting and she said "Oh, yeah. I don't know what happened to that."

4. The Berlin Paintings - I put up 3 paintings at a shoe store in Berlin. I left Berlin suddenly and left the paintings in the care of an English student named Lindsay. I actually arranged for her to remain in Berlin as a "Working Student" by writing to her professor and telling him that I was a professional artist and she was my dealer. When I got back to the states, I asked her how things were going with the paintings. She told me she gave them away to people she met.

There are probably more. But these are the ones I remember . I learned valuable lessons from these paintings. Mostly, "Don't trust people with your paintings."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Q: What the hell is a Skwibo?

A: Skwibo was a misheard song lyric from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. Somehow it became a nickname of sorts. Eventually I named the company under which I legally sell paintings Skwibo Arts. So Skwibo is part Ziggy Stardust, part Citibank.