Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wayne Thiebaud Comes to Town

painting by Wayne Thiebaud

This evening we went to the Jewish Community Center to hear Wayne Thiebaud being interviewed by Adam Gopnik. Every seat was taken; folding chairs had to be set up at the very back.

When it was over, I walked out the door and down the sidewalk feeling like I'd just left the chiropractor. I felt like you must feel after visiting an oxygen bar, or how you're supposed to feel when you get out of church. Wayne is 87 and full of the joy of painting–a joy of painting separate from "the art world." To him, cartooning is just as noble an activity as painting. The thing that counts, he says, is making something out of nothing. Just making a little world of your own is enough, and he didn't mean that in the good-enough sense, but in the more-than-magnificent sense.

I felt this same kind of relief years ago after seeing a room of full Mose Tolliver paintings. At the time, all I wanted to paint were big faces, but I felt that I had to paint other things. I thought that after I painted say, three big faces, it was time to move on to cars, houses, bugs.

All Mose's paintings were of big faces. The variety was astounding. The gallery owner told us that Mose used big buckets of house paint, and painted on plywood. Riding back in the car after seeing Mose's work, I felt an overwhelming sense that it was OK to paint at least 100,000 more faces. In fact, I felt like it wasn't against the law to paint only faces and nothing else for the rest of my life.

painting by Mose Tolliver