In 1988 I was freelancing for Christian Dior as a makeup artist, often putting in a week at Macy’s. This was the biggest Dior counter in the 48 states and a crazy house of business, not that far removed from the frenzy below, the 33rd Street subway station.
I had a returning client, an artist who showed all over the world (she still does). She’s got the huge, tremendous loft in Soho, acquired sometime in the late 70s, the whole nine yards. She kept telling me I had to marry a rich man. This was the way to get that art career. - Or at least be able to paint for life, she said, because your feet are not going to hold out forever in this job, while painting at night too. (She was right about that actually – I had surgery on both of my feet in the 90s – a common NYC retail thing).
So she arranged a party to which not only was I invited but also her rich single neighbor. He also had the fabulous loft in Soho, just waiting, as it turned out, for the right woman to waltz in and decorate it. For at least the party I was game enough.
I remember the night very well – I went to a Christopher Makos exhibition at Ronald Feldman right before the party. The show was photographs of Andy Warhol in drag - every single photograph. The photos are pretty famous actually. There was a long line winding outside the door onto the street, just to get in. After I left the place, I found a playing card of the King of Diamonds outside her loft’s door. I took this as some kind sign.
.... I could barely get through the dinner as this Frenchman she had in mind was so dull. Then a stranger walked in and I thought to myself, well now here is something interesting. Like a brat I left the party with the new guy and we went dancing at a nightclub called MK.
We still tried it though, the Frenchman and I, with a couple of dates later. Nothing happened and it never did when someone championed the marry-a-rich-man idea.
Once I moved into the computer age, I ran across my artist friend and could trace her well deserved success. She was always a great painter. She seems happy in marriage too - although come to think of it, she never talked about it.
- When I shared this story with a businessman recently, he asked me: "Did she tell the rich guy that ‘what you need to do is to marry an artist?’” I laughed, realizing how much my perception of “living with an artist” in the intervening 20 years had changed.
At one time and for a long time, I thought this was some sort of a wonderful thing for the person who has no art in their life, but would like to. Some people see art from a distance, something they enjoy, but they know they’re missing out on vital information. The artist in their lives supposedly provides this - makes museum trips more fun, decorates your house, adds all kinds of sweet touches.
As an artist you buy into this idea too, you think you have something to offer. And if you are uncomplicated enough, it comes off just like that - a smooth exchange where each can offer things the other doesn't have.
But I now know that artists are very, very complicated creatures. Interviews with artists have really opened my eyes in ways I never expected. Everyone has a got a story that most people don't know about, especially if they are making very singular work. That work doesn't come out of nowhere and often the people who make it are no walk on the beach. They are not here to brighten the world, liven up a party, decorate life or any of that.
Well, maybe they can do it at a dinner party. I guess they better be charming at openings. But once they are home or in the studio, life takes over.