Friday, May 05, 2006

Graffiti was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen!

"I quit school. I went to a huge retrospective by Pierre Alechinsky at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It was the first time that I had seen someone older and established doing something that was vaguely similar to my little abstract drawings. It gave me this whole new boost of confidence. It was the time I was trying to figure out if I was an artist, why and what that meant. I was inspired by the writings of Jean Dubuffet, and I remember seeing a lecture by Christo and seeing the film on his work Running Fence.

How did these artists inspire you?

The thing I responded to most was their belief that art could reach all kinds of people, as opposed to the traditional view, which has art as this elitist thing. The fact that these influences quote-unquote happened to along change the whole course I was on. Then another so-called coincidence happened. I applied at a public-employment place for work and happened to get placed in a job at what’s now the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. I was painting walls and repairing the roof and things. I started using their facilities to do bigger and bigger paintings. When someone canceled an exhibition and they had an empty space, the director offered me an exhibit in one of the galleries. For Pittsburgh, this was a big thing, especially for me, being nineteen and showing in the best place I could show in Pittsburgh besides the museum. From that time, I knew I wasn't going to be satisfied with Pittsburgh anymore or with the life I was living there. I had started sleeping with men. I wanted to get away from the girl I was living with. She said she was pregnant. I was in the position of having to get married and be a father or making a break. One thing I knew for sure: I didn't want to stay there and be a Pittsburgh artist and married with a family. I decided to make a major break. New York was the only place to go."

Rolling Stone, August 10, 1989 BY DAVID SHEFF