Archive for the ‘New York City Street Art’ Category


Art In The Unexpected Made My Day

August 22, 2010

What I love about New York City, what I love about my life, and what I love about art, is how they can all converge in an instant.

And that gives me a spark sometimes when I need it the very most.

I had one minute, just one minute, before a business meeting was to start Saturday on 11th Street in the East Village. But before stepping into an office building there, I noticed an artist who I’d never seen before on that corner. He’d set out little paintings, mostly figurative, minimalist pieces but colorful and dozens of them. They captured my attention because I wasn’t expecting it and the work was so vibrant and diverse…from abstracts to animals to human faces.

I stopped to glance for the one moment I had to spare and then was off to the meeting (a tv thing, we had  a lot of brainstorming and ground to cover and more later on this as things develop).

As the meeting wrapped I said to someone, “there’s this guy across the street with his paintings, I can’t get it out of my head, I’m going back over there, now.”

An early afternoon crowd had started to swell checking out all of the paintings leaned against the brick wall of a vacant building. I clearly wasn’t the only one interested. I asked him his name, “Teofilo Olivieri. You stopped by a while ago, didn’t you?” He’d noticed that I had taken notice of his work.

“Did you paint all these yourself?”

“Sure, I’m painting right now, I got a paint sponsor so they gave me the paints, mostly acrylics,” he said showing me a large bag filled with tubes of paint next to the new piece he’d been working on.

None of the paintings was on a regular canvas, no meticulously framed and matted art here that nicely matches the couch. God, I hate when someone’s criteria for a picture is that it “really goes with the pillows.”  How about something that has spirit and soul and life and a story in its own right?  Or maybe those qualities don’t “go” with the living room.

“What are you painting on?

“Whatever I find, you know.” He pointed to different pieces as we walked.

“This here is the top of a wood barrel. And these are old book covers with all the pages out. This is a scrap piece of siding from a house. This is a floor tile. Oh, and these two, they  go together actually. They’re the side panels of an old drawer. See the notches on the end?”

And that last one really got my attention. Companion pieces, figurative and allowing for imagination,  just 11 by 4 inches, the dimensions of the little wood drawer that they were in a former life, now painted a rich forest green with the image of a man on each, one in profile, one head-on with a crown and the words, “I Am King.” Hard for me  to describe properly, but intriguing to look at.

“I’ll take both of these,” and handed him the cash.

“Thanks so much, man, I think these are cool, too.”

“When will you be back?

“I don’t know, they’re turning this building into a restaurant in about three weeks they said,  so I’ve got to find another spot.”

I’ll have track him down.

The paintings are in my living room, now. They remind me of how this enterprising artist took whatever he found on the street or in the trash, painted it in his own vision, and brought it for the world to see and to sell for a small price to earn his living.

That is what art is. Creating from whatever is at hand and making it the best possible representation of our vision. That is what I admire about the artistic spirit. That is why I am more passionate every day that interviewing artists of all genres and bringing their stories to the world through television is my gift and I’m grateful to have it. In fact, that’s what television is, at least in my career…creating with whatever ideas and interviews and stories I can enterprise to put on the air for people to make their own interpretations. And if it leaves them even a little inspired, that is the greatest joy I can feel.

Artist Teofilo Olivieri, whom I met by chance on a New York City street corner,  gave me inspiration on a day when I needed it.

Oh, and the paintings match nothing in my living room. Perfect.