Monday, April 19, 2010

The Artist Bill Jensen, 1984



The Artist Bill Jensen 1984
copyright Peter Bellamy 2010


Bill Jensen had a studio in Williamsburg.  I think it was the only standing building on the block and you had to cross a moat to get to it, than endless locks and snarling dogs.  His landlord had tried to shoot him or something like that. So he was a little paranoid.  You climbed a series of ladders through a cavern of darkness, and then there was Bill.  I worked two years to get his portrait and had to photograph a series of artists he liked and respected, each more obscure than the one before. Then I had to pass some kind of test as to whether or not I could be trusted with portraying the story of the real art world of oil, canvas, and booze.  And his teachings.  I remember the quote, “There is no such thing as an inanimate object.”  At the end of the eighties he transformed into a normal guy, but the magic for me was back in the day. He used to spend several years working on a painting and there was no way to communicate with the outside world from his studio. His wife would send him packing on a rickety bike with a bag of peanuts and he had his jar of spirits, which he would pour into a glass that was always half full but never half empty. I remember the toilet, just an open pipe connected to a sewer line, I was glad I didn’t have to use it. Of all the artists I met, he was my favorite. I loved his work more than anyone else’s.  To this day, Bill Jensen is in the best of health, and lives a vibrant, happy and creative life, creating magnificent paintings.

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