Installation and Performance

Many of these works were created for public venues and events, most prominently, the Artists and Models Affair. Beginning in the early 1980s, this was an annual art party originally held on the evening of the Western New York Exhibition at the Albright Knox Art Gallery.

These works provide opportunities to explore alternative art forms. Working largely outside of any curatorial restraints I characteristically use them as vehicles for social commentary, often directed at the art world itself. I have been careless about documenting these works, so the existing record is spotty. Some video exists, along with some photographs (which I have included here) of some of the events, but overall these events have been ephemeral in nature.

Here, in reverse chronological order, are descriptions of many works are included below along with links to images when available.


2003: “The Sacred Church of the Artist and Model” Tri-Main Building, Buffalo – President Bush was offering money to faith-based initiatives while arts spending was being cut. I created the Church of the Artist and Model with all the trappings of a religion, but with Hallwalls as the deity, and everyone associated with Hallwalls as saints. Dressed as a priest I conducted baptisms and collected donations with a collection basket. People could light votive candles for a fee. There was an “alter,” which was actually a table from my studio, and some relics that like most relics were of suspicious origins, like “the true nose of Cindy Sherman,” and an “authentic” piece of plaster wall from the original Hallwalls. Above and behind the alter there was a video eyeball scanning the room like big brother.

1998: “Legends, Lies, and Myths” 1990 Niagara Street. This was a big wall painting of Marlin Monroe, OJ Simpson, and Venus De Milo. It was intended to be ambiguous and enigmatic. The OJ trial had just ended; the meaning of the work would likely have skewed differently to people of different races. Read literally from left to right, they are three icons: Marilyn: legend, O.J.: lies, Venus: myth. But the words and images resonate in multiple ways with each other. O.J. and Marilyn’s legends have conspiratorial overtones. Venus is the goddess of beauty, and beauty played a key role in all their legends. With her arms missing Venus seems metaphorically defenseless and mutilated. Each story is mythical; each involves deception; the connections go on and on. It’s hard to separate truth from legend and myth. Marilyn was lit with a red flood light, and Venus with a blue. OJ’s eyes were lit with cold white spotlights. This is one of the advantages of these event-based installations; you can do something that is of-the-moment; it isn’t meant to last a thousand years.

1997: “Artists and Models the Movie” Courtyard Mall. This was one of my favorite installation/performances. As usual I was playing on art stereotypes. I had a “starving artist” and “famous artist” movie set. The famous artist set had a “signed Joseph Albers,” nice furniture, a good easel, and stacks of money. The starving artist set was a cold-water flat; I think I had rubber rats. I had a bunch of movie scripts and two volunteers from the audience-an artist and a model-would pick one and “perform” it on one of the sets. One would pose and the other would paint. There was a clapboard person and someone with a video camera outfitted to look like a Hollywood movie camera. I sat in a director’s chair with a beret and megaphone and directed: “you see something in your model’s eyes that you never saw before. You move close. Model, pull back in fear!” The video was fed into a video toaster, converted to black and white, and Ron Emke typed live commentary and “dialogue” onto the movie as it showed above the dance floor.

No known images exist of this.
If you have any, please contact me.

1996: “Girls, Girls, Girls” Tri-Main Building, Buffalo, NY – A sign with chaser lights proclaimed the title. Rear screen projections of historical fine art nudes alternated with classic 50s era pin-ups. Then a light came on from behind creating a shadow play. I was a midway barker with a straw hat and cane with two nude models behind a screen so you just saw our shadows and a continuous soundtrack that said something like, “girls, girls, girls, step right up!” It was a circus noir with a twist. They would do nude domestic chores like ironing. Eventually they mimed lesbian sex. I was treading a thin line between commentary on the male gaze in art, and participation in it. I was pleased when Lucinda Finley, a feminist activist and UB law professor, said she liked it.

This picture of the cut-out figures is
the only known image of this work.

Circa 1994: “VolksArt” Cut-outs of an Arian family greeted visitors who went inside an enclosure and posed with various props. A light flashed, casting their shadows on a screen, which due to a phosphorescent coating, remained to be viewed from the outside. This way everyone made their own “art,” but each person’s work faded from “memory” with time, or was obliterated by the next person.

No known images exist of this.
If you have any, please contact me.

1993 “Creative Control” (A and M installation), Packard Building, Buffalo – “The Truth about Artists and Models” was the first time I used a shadow play technique by casting silhouettes of “actors” onto stretched screen material. In this one I alternated shadow puppets with real people. Over the evening a slow drama unfolded as an artist and model gradually became amorous. Over the figures I projected text from a torrid novel about artists and their models. Also projected were images from “how to draw” art books and other sundry matter. Clips from movies about artists (“The Agony and the Ecstasy,” a Jerry Lewis movie, “An American in Paris”) were shown on the wings along with “instructional videos” that included audios of actor Vincent Price talking about art over arbitrary art history images. The whole thing commented on public stereotypes.

No known images exist of this.
If you have any, please contact me.

Circa 1992: “The Art Teacher from Hell” old Sample department store on Hertel Ave. – Wearing a beret, I had volunteer students sit at desks and draw a model (who I posed like an inanimate object). I arbitrarily chastised or praised the students without rhyme or reason. I yelled, extolled, and instructed. The space was decorated with found art from Goodwill. I had handouts showing the proper way to draw nudes (their genitals were missing).

1991: “Censor This” Arena Roller Rink, Buffalo – Hallwalls director Ed Cardoni worked with me on this writing text to accompany the installation. This was during the art scandals of the early 90s: Andre Serrano, Robert Maplethorp, and the NEA Four. I created a sideshow of art horrors, but like all sideshows the reality didn’t live up to the hype. For instance a poster promised a “paramilitary youth group performing a flag-burning ritual.” It turned out to be a video by Jim Hartel of boy scouts disposing of flags by roasting them on a grill in Clinton Park in Tonawanda. There was also a slide show of world famous art that could be banned had an anti-obscenity law that was being considered passed. Later we played “pin-the-fig-leaf-on-the-nude.”

No known images exist of this.
If you have any, please contact me.

Circa 1990: Guernica Parody dealing with surveillance, paranoia, and cops. There is only a bit of video footage of this. It must have been done around the infamous Artpark protest at which 19 artists were arrested while trying to stage a Guerrilla performance over the cancellation of Mark Pauline’s Survival Research Laboratories in Lewiston, NY when Artpark’s directors realized the artists intended to burn hundreds of bibles. I videotaped the event and the arrests. The tape was eventually used in a documentary of the event.

1990: “First Night” Lafayette Square Building, Buffalo – a multi-media window display that celebrated the steady progress of time but was in reality a political jab at Mayor Griffin and his parks commissioner Robert Delano who were in the headlines at the time for various scandals. The words “out” and “in” pulsated across the bottom of the display. When it appeared, it looked like both political figures were either out or on their way out.

1989: “What would you pay for this?” at the “Vampires of Capitalism” Artist and Models installation, Arena Roller Rink, Buffalo – set up like an artists game show in which art styles changed in an hourly fashion show according to the demand of the market. Dressed as Keith Harring I hooked people up to an electronic device that caused their muscles to jerk at my will. Complex stage set parodied hot artists of the moment.

Circa late eighties: “Night of 1000 Helgas” – Tony Billoni opened the Jam Club around this time. It was a night club that featured artist installations. Artist Andrew Wyeth had recently released a series of paintings featuring a mysterious model named Helga. It became a media event. In this partly fact-based performance/installation, Helga has died, but like Norman Bates Wyeth keeps her body preserved and continues cranking out paintings. Lots of references to Psycho and bad art.

1988: “Absolute Reality” Albright Hall, Buffalo State College – This was a public event in honor of Robert Longo who was back to premiere a new performance. I had three small living tableaux. “The conceptual artist” played Twister and attempted to drink beer in a straightjacket all night. Another was “The NY Artist” who drank Jack Daniels and threw paint around a room that started out perfectly white. The third contained a version of the Night of 1000 Helgas, which was based on Andrew Wyeth’s famous model Helga who in my version had died. But like Norman Bates he keeps the body preserved and continues cranking out paintings. Later I did a more elaborate version of this at Tony Billoni’s Jam Club, a bar where installations were featured. I was doing a lot of public venue installations in the late 1980s; I almost stopped painting.

1988: “Heretic USA” Cabaret Theater, Buffalo (with Mark Joyce and Chuck Agro) – My installations often served as thinly veiled commentaries. For Heretic USA (1988, Cabaret Theater)-a collaboration with Mark Joyce and Chuck Agro-we attempted to offend everyone. Based on the religious resort “Heritage USA,” it was a tribute to the evangelist scandals of Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and others. There was the “Sho Yer Tits Confessional,” in which the public would “confess.” We had an arrow-through-the-head Saint Sebastian painting that cried “miracle” tears, toilet bowl toxic holy water, a large-breasted Byzantine Mary painting, and a “talk to God” phone booth consisting of a Budweiser can on a string.

Circa 1985: Second Artist and Models Affair – Artists and Models was started around 1984 by Tony Billoni, Steve Gallagher, and Cathy Howe. The first one was in a former nightclub on Main Street and it was a pretty modest affair. Artist and Models as it became known actually started with number two at the Pierce Arrow Building. I asked Cathy if I could do something. The walls were crusty and deteriorating and the place seemed cave-like. My response was Lascaux-style paintings on the walls and ceilings, artfully lit and accented by Tony’s go-go dancers. There was a retro, campy feel to all this.

1985: “Just Plain Folks” (organized by Diane Bush for Urban Art Project), Theatre Place, Buffalo – The cardboard cutouts from my installation in the Metropolitan Project painted from snapshots taken of people in downtown Buffalo were used again here. Construction site ribbon (something we had been seeing a lot of) stretched around the display. I stenciled the words “you are here” at various points. A lot of people in and out of the art community thought of Buffalo as a stopover on the way to somewhere better, like New York or Chicago. “You are here” was a response to this mentality.

1984: “Metropolitan Project” Hallwalls – My involvement with installation art began at this two-month quasi-live-in event organized by Stiller Dawson and me at Hallwalls. Many artists took part. I went onto Main Street, which had just been closed to traffic and was now largely deserted. I took Polaroids of people and turned them into life-sized cardboard cutouts. I painted window frames and hung them from ceiling, and spray-painted an image of City Hall on the walls. We had three big public events where we featured what was then a new urban phenomenon, break dancing.