Haunted by ghosts and not afraid to talk about it

I was interviewed by the good people of the Westport CT gallery Machamux about my ghost paintings. They also gave me this great video of me cursing for five seconds at the Artists Lecture Series in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Giovanni, you’ve mentioned that your ghosts are inspired by early abstractionists like Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Hilma Af Klint who were also followers of Theosophy, an esoteric religion focused on spiritual evolution. Can you elaborate on this?

I found it intriguing that abstract painting came from a bunch of artists who believed their art would somehow usher in a new age of spirituality, yet today we tend to look at it through whatever materialist theory happens to be in vogue. My thought was that these ghosts were the spiritual origins of modernism coming back to haunt it.


Down and out in Naptown

The only interesting thing I could find in downtown Indianapolis
This was the only interesting sight in downtown Indianapolis. I wish I’d seen a pest bird.

It was the last day of a conference in Indianapolis and I was starting to crack. Three days of breakfasting and lunching with strangers, cheerful collaboration during workshops, and shoptalk between sessions were getting to me (see the name of this website).

That morning I unintentionally shut down the conversation at a table when I was asked about working in New York. I told them I worked less than a mile from where a terrorist had just killed eight pedestrians and bicyclists, and that my coworkers had been a lot more freaked out when they heard the office had bedbugs than when the attack happened. Evidently terrorism is not an acceptable topic over breakfast.
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My Sunday making America great again

kill me now

When the good people at Make the Road put out a call for volunteers to register voters, I knew I should sign up. It had been too long since I had done something charitable. Plus it was in Queens! On a Sunday! How could I say no?

I had a brief moment of panic when I met the team at the Queens Center Mall and they said most of us were not going to be sitting at a booth but instead had to spread out and invite strangers to register. From the looks of them, many of the shoppers around us were either fans or practitioners of caged fighting, and my only defense would be a measly clipboard.

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Telltale signs of a young artist

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Elephant in a Landscape

We tend to believe that artists are born brilliant, that their talent is evident from childhood. Vasari was enthralled by the story of Giotto’s gifts being discovered when the young shepherd was seen sketching sheep on the ground with a stick — so much so that he also used it in his biographies of Domenico Beccafumi, Andrea Sansovino, and Andrea del Castagno.

But if you look at the walls of any day care center, it’s obvious that all children draw sheep, and at pretty much the same skill level; it’s only in retrospect that we endow one kid’s doodles with evidence of her incipient talent.


Rage against the dying of the light

Scene: Two men dressed in business casual sitting at an East Village bar on a Friday night, ’70s punk rock playing in the background.

Friend: What have you been up to since Sabine’s been out of town?

Me: Uh… I went to The Strand for a couple of hours.

Friend: Lingered in the erotic art books section, did you?

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Not quite white

I was making my way back to work after lunch with a friend at La Loteria, one of the few Mexican restaurants I like in Manhattan.

I don’t like to walk around in Greenwich Village because I always get lost, but I do it because, as anyone will tell you, it’s rare to find good Mexican food in New York. I also like that place because most of the people working there seem to be Hispanic. I’m sorry to be so judgey, but I hate Mexican restaurants that only employ white waitstaff.

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Dance like nobody’s watching

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that I’m not comfortable dancing. That’s exactly why last year, for my wife’s birthday, I signed us up for dance classes. The gift was not me learning to dance, it was my willingness to put up with the humiliation of taking dance classes.

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