Joie De Vivre 2007
At some point if you are not independently wealthy you could argue that all roads lead back to making painting for an artist.
In 2007 I was working as the headwaiter of a French bistro in Brooklyn to make ends meet. One of the owner’s of the restaurant was a commercial art dealer who ran an art gallery next door. My “boss” had a chain of galleries across America selling provincial art to the masses. This extremely macho French gallery/restaurant owner used to make fun of me saying “if I was a successful artist, why did I have to work at his restaurant part-time?” The artists that he showed “were able to do their work twenty-four/seven, didn’t I want to do my art full-time?” At this point I was showing internationally and much more well-known than any artist he was “allowing to work full-time.” I had very little desire to make a giant oil painting of a swan in a late impressionistic style and sell it to a wealthy house wife in Dutchess County. I had what was called a “real” art career. At the time I had a studio, was doing shows at galleries in New York and Europe, getting reviews in the New York Times, and even selling my art into “serious” art collections. The only problem was it wasn’t enough to survive from. My day job boss was like the devil on your shoulder telling you it is okay to sell out.
So I decided to “sell out” and do what is probably my first public performance, at this bistro in Brooklyn, where they had been badgering me a show. I made an exhibition of large works on paper (the commercial gallery had a framing service next store) that were enlarged comment cards that I hand painted and then used as a back drop for a series of nudes I aped from recent art history paintings. The show was titled “Joie De Vivre” and for the beginning of the exhibition I was the waiter working in my exhibition. The show’s distortion of the power roles were actually painful to experience and I didn’t realize how social stratified the world was. Also be careful what you pretend to be. Imagine being able to be invisible as a waiter and hear your audience’s critical dinner conversations. Or have an important art curator walk in off the street in disbelief that I would have a show in a bistro, and see me working behind the bar with my name on the wall of the eatery. In the end I sold next to nothing but received one of the biggest exposures to a mass culture audience by having my work appear on NBC in the morning. It was a commercial failure, but a huge PR success outside of the Art world and the start of my “food” performances.