Artists like reading about artists. Their crazy lives, their tilted reality, the fuel that drove them to the power of creation. Yes it’s true! Gerard de Nerval walked his pet lobster on a leash through the streets of Paris, Toulouse Lautrec carried his absinthe in the hollowed out flask in his cane, Picasso never threw anything away (Classic) hoarder, and Mapplethorpe entertained his boyfriends in his apartment at the top of 1 Fifth in Greenwich Village Before it became an expensive luxury condo. Sure, there are so many stories of the eccentricities particular to painters poets musicians actors dancers that convince the reader that YES the artist is not like you. Or, no, the artist is not like you.
My favorite place for this exploration of artist bio is The Strand in NYC, one of the remaining bookstores still alive and well. Their art book floor is a wealthy vault stocked with riches only an art lover would appreciate, providing a bounty of info, a gluttonous feast! one can spend days overloading with the vast bios, pictorials, history, essays, waiting to be explored. And I have done just that..Sometimes I need to get out of the studio. Refresh and revitalize and my way to do it is to explore past artists lives. It’s a great way to escape and enter another world. Familiar yet distant exotic and surreal.
Whether it’s Suzanne Valladon or Francis Bacon, Toulouse Lautrec, Modigliani, or Caravaggio they each have a story and each story is a unique revelation giving an insightful view into the mind and methods,the how and why this painting came to be, this photograph was taken, or how this sculpture came alive out of a block of stone. The mystery unveiled in the written word documented often by the artists themselves. Van Gogh’ s bio is a revelation! Picasso’s lover, Fernande Olivier indulges us with a peek into the starving artist world of Montmartre in the early 1900’s when Picasso found the clowns and harlequins in the circus life a welcome escape from the dark brutal reality of painting by candlelight huddled in the freezing hovel called Bateau Lavoir the studios of Monmartre where genius was born. And we can’ t overlook The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, his up close and personal account of life as he saw it and his motivations for popping out his Warhol creations in his Dream Machine called The Factory! Pop Art Andy style integrated his life with literature, and his creation of Interview Magazine gave him a venue for putting that Andy philosophy onto the pages he knew would get infiltrate the readers minds who perhaps knew next to nothing about art but were fans of pop culture and cool celebrities like the ones he featured on the covers every month! Interview was one of my favorites and I never ever missed a copy! The Liza’, the Halstons, Blondie , Mick, Bianca, Jackie-O, we’re thrilled to be included in Warhol’s stable of Interview celebs!
So I go to get a glimpse, distant it may be, of a world of art where the sterile gentrification the expensive and expansive environment of today, did not exist. The perfect studio Joseph Cornell created his magical boxes of wonder at his mothers kitchen table in College Point Queens, so opposite to today’s celebrity gathering at the Hottest NYC gallery in Chelsea, or is it Bushwick ,or wait maybe Williamsburg, no Harlem? SoHo is Over for art and artists that’s a given. The only thing even slightly reminiscent there is the closed down frontage of OKHarris, on West Broadway, the 1970’s Gallery that was the Kilimanjaro for any aspiring painter. But now it’s most likely scheduled for a glitzy condo building that only the 1%’can afford.
Whether it’s KiKi of Montparnasse, the salon of Gertrude and Alice, the martyrdom of Suzanne Valdon as she cared for her prolific painter son, Utrillo as he in his alcoholic rages and fits of insanity managed to keep painting under her watchful eye, the absinthe ridden Lautrec, deformed and hindered in every way – except the way he was meant to follow – painting the brothel scenes of Monmartre and the nightlife at the Moulin Rouge, or the ravaged Modigliani cut short in his prime as he suffered the freezing winters in unseated ateliers, drinking his way thru the Paris of the early 20th century, the stories are here in the books, documented between pages of memories, letters, research, conversations, poetry, journals, dungeons of lives waiting to be discovered.
Like at the Strand.
Art is Art. The painters of yesterday reflect on today’s emerging And established artists . But they should know who they are dealing with and what. For Me it is a perfect blend of new dimensions, fresh insights and fantastic possibilities! Traveling through chapters of artists lives takes me, a NYC artist, on an adventure- past to present that opens doors, revealing fresh ideas and inspiration , and leads me to an expansive creative territory as I travel page after page after page……..