Staircase at 521 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan
My gallery at the time, DeChiara/Stewart, was a bit concerned that I was spending so much time making paintings outside that couldn’t be sold, so they asked me to do a painting near them so that they could at least show people what I was doing. I picked this staircase because it had graffiti for Al Gore, which I thought was funny.
By the time the super of the building noticed me, I had finished the white underpainting and had started painting a landscape based on a painting by Thomas Fearnley. Fortunately, he really liked it. I think he was bored and was happy to have someone to hang out with. He was concerned that I was painting outside. “It should be in a gallery. That way, you could sell it. It’s too good to be destroyed.” He pointed out that there were lots of galleries on the street and offered to introduce me to any art dealers who walked by. So every time someone walked by who he knew was a dealer, he would grab them and pull them over to me. None of them made eye contact with either of us or said anything. Even the ones that I knew didn’t seem to recognize me, but I was wearing a lot of clothes because it was so cold.
A couple months later, I noticed that the super had painted over the Gore graffiti but had kept the painting. Then someone drew a silver circle around the painting and wrote a little prose poem about how much they would rather be in the country than in the city. Then the super painted over that, too. I later found out that both the Gore graffiti and the poem were written by an artist who lived in the building. I met him because, like myself, he was living illegally in a commercial building, and we were lobbying together in Albany to get the New York Loft Law changed so that it would protect people like us. Unfortunately, because Albany is so dysfunctional and because we didn’t have any money, it was all a waste of time. I did get to meet all my local politicians, though.
I liked this painting a lot, so I made a postcard of the view of it from a distance. I recently went to visit this painting with Patrice Loubier, a Canadian writer who’d written about the project for Parachute but had never seen any of the paintings. Unfortunately,