A tropical home in Bali, Indonesia
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff · Photos by Sebastian Belaustegui
This story was featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Describe your studio. The studio has glass walls for maximum natural light. It feels like a giant aquarium floating in the jungle.
What is your “Green Room” studio? The Green Room is a patch of soft tropical grass that sits on top of the master bedroom, adjacent to the studio. With views of jungle forest, it’s a perfect retreat to do drawings, writing, and painting as well as enjoy a nice scotch at dusk. And if that isn’t enough, the tall tropical trees that act as a ceiling to the Green Room slowly drop these large orange flowers on you when the breeze picks up. Hey, I’m not going to try and be modest about this one. It is awesome!
While you are in Bali, what subject matter are you inspired to paint? I’m interested in documenting my personal experience through symbolic, figurative work—visually telling the stories of the people and places I find inspiring.
Describe the current television series you are involved in. We are currently filming the first 13-episode season of Canvasing the World. It’s a show about the people and places behind my paintings, disguised as a travel show. We have already filmed in Heidelberg, Berlin, Argentina, London, and Paris. Next up are Africa, Cuba, Turkey, and more stateside episodes, so my daughter can tag along. I stay in each place anywhere from one to four months.
How did you choose your various destinations? Just places I’ve always wanted to go. It’s a really good gig for an artist who loves to travel because [the film studio] lets me pick.
What is your goal for each place you visit and for the series in general? The goal is rooted in my curiosity about the back stories of my favorite paintings. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to know the real story behind the Mona Lisa smile? Or what van Gogh was actually doing the night he painted STARRY NIGHT? And that GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING—you just know there is some scandal there.” Well, now we have the technology to do just that. To make an archive for future generations that celebrates the subject and environment of the subject with both paint and film. The series will be available a little further down the road.
Describe the bar that you opened in Bali. The Jack Kerouac Bar is just below my studio, and it’s a place where fellow travelers can wet their whistle with one of our signature cocktails, such as The Frida or The Van Gogh, for the cost of one token of humanity: a drawing, poem, a painted rock, even a page from an old book.
Do you listen to music while you work? Always. An eclectic mix ranging from classical and movie soundtracks to Jay Z and the ever-refined AC/DC.
What artists have influenced you? Nicolai Fechin, Mihály Munkácsy, Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Maynard Dixon, Vincent van Gogh, and a long list of other painters that really left their human experience on the canvas.
Describe your recent dollar-bill series. What was your artistic mission? Artistic mission? Please don’t give me that much credit! The dollar-bill series was pretty much a dare to see if I could apply the optical qualities of pointillism with real, folded currency.
What work in the series was commissioned by the Obama administration? It was a large portrait of President Obama made entirely out of U.S. currency, and it was given to him on Inauguration Day.
What is your proudest accomplishment as an artist? Creating the ability to be free. For me, nothing feels better than to wake up and own all of the potential and possibility of that day.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not painting? Spending time with my daughter, Lily.
What is one place people will never find you? Well, I’ve learned never to say never.
What do you like to show people when they come to visit? We actually have had a lot of visitors to the studio, but in the case of Bali, it really shows itself. There are literally little gems around every corner. Just down the street from the studio is the Elephant Cave, and it is surrounded by these massive fallen Hindu sculptures from the 11th century. So you will be walking through the jungle and discover a moss-covered head the size of a bus—very Planet of the Apes.
Featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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