Todd Bienvenu: Interview

Todd Bienvenu, Backseat, 2013, oil on canvas, 47 x 37.5 inches (courtesy of the
Todd Bienvenu, Backseat, 2013, oil on canvas, 47 x 37.5 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Jennifer Samet interviews painter Todd Bienvenu whose exhibition Borrowing Tomorrow's Fun is on view at Life on Mars Gallery, Bushwick, Brooklyn, through September 28, 2014.

Bienvenu comments: "In the recent Piero della Francesca show at the Frick there was a painting of a bishop wearing a cape covered with small images from the life of Christ ('Saint Augustine,' 1454-69). It made me realize I can paint this hairy metal dude and on his arm, make these little shapes, like drawings of babes or knives. I can write song lyrics on him. I can put something crazy or funny, or hidden messages, or drawings of other guys on there. And then he can wear a T-shirt and I can put something on his T-shirt. Then I can paint the bottles, and put hidden jokes in there. So that painting was about that layering: and this, and this, and this. That is sort of a clue as to where the work is. It’s ostensibly a gross painting of these crazy characters, but there’s a tip of the hat to this old master painting that only a connoisseur might be aware of – a bit of high and low... Having a story gives it the personal thing; there’s a narrative I can hold onto. Instead of just a pile of bodies, I know what the colors are going to be, what they’re doing. And it is painted in a loose and fast and juicy way that speaks to the story. There is a painting language you have to be faithful to. What you see, or what your dreams are, or whatever the impetus is, is nice place to start. But in the course of making it, the painting has certain demands that must be fulfilled."