Damian Loeb - Studio Visit
Damian Loeb invited me to his studio in TriBeCa, one step away from Canal Street where the street vendors stopped me repeatedly to ask if I wanted to buy a bag. As soon as I entered his study, leaving behind the chaos of Chinatown I became wrapped in a calm and dimly lit environment. The artist seems not to care about turning on the light and invites me to sit on one of two leather burgundy chairs. Resting on the next couch are two cats, one white and one black. A third ashen cat seems the only one to question my arrival and was watching me closely.
Loeb tells me that his recent work is in Miami and if I want he can show me the photos he's working for the next series of paintings. Meanwhile, I'm fascinated by his studio, in the shadows stands a wooden platform with a chair and a desk in the same wood, both wheeled, brushes over it stand vertical and tidy. Everything is orderly, nothing is out of the place, the platform is an image that brings me back to an old mans' barber shop.
When Loeb explains that the platform is mobile, I say that it seems a great place to paint. The platform can climb up to the level he desires, so he can paint according to the light and the size of the canvas required. The mysterious charm of this place is also due to the presence of cameras from which you can see the street outside and the passing people. He tells me that is like being at the window twenty-four hours a day. It is interesting to watch people walking by and they did not suspect being monitored and observed. The artist asked me to go downstairs to see his photos, and even here the surprises are not lacking.
We enter a small room with dark walls, where a large screen and sophisticated equipment permit us access to his photos. His archive is immense, ten thousand pictures in a single year, and considering all the folders of different years, you will lose count. He describes himself as a painter, but that working on pictures that he has taken has become a large part of his process. He shows me a series of shots in which the protagonist is a young woman alone in her room, completely naked in the act of resting in bed or wandering through the house to the bathroom and hallway. The atmosphere is calm, the dark tone of the walls, is the perfect place to get lost in her own physicality and the pleasure of feeling free. The woman shows security about her naked body, as if the idea of a potential viewer could not intimidate her. A state of abandonment and being comfortable came in next photo, where the same character is no longer alone but with her child. In what later became the oil painting - (Primary) With Child - the yellow dress of the baby will be the only warm color to "disturb" the atmosphere of calm. It 'a private moment at which we are allowed to attend as long as we keep quiet our intrusion. The power of the painting by Damian Loeb is to put in motion the senses (feelings) of those who look at his pictures. For example, I can feel the softness of the bed in the foreground as I could perfectly feel and count the vertebrae from the back of the woman portrayed, and I could feel the touch of the little girls' body as if I were to lift her from the cradle. Loeb also showed me a series of pictures in contrast with the earlier ones. Landscapes and city views, there are scenes of moments in a Caribbean sea or waves at night when it is all too easy to hear the sound of water. He explains that it is still under selection, but that it is almost ready to finally get to painted.
Even in this small room there are cameras overlooking the street entrance, as if Damian Loeb could never lose sight of what is happening outside his door. I thank him for showing me part of its rich photographic archive, go back upstairs and talk some more . I tell him that his studio struck me, I like everything, especially the idea of the platform but also a whole wall left rough. He tells me about the evolution of what years ago was only a small room used as a studio and now has also become his home. " I have always loved this area of New York and this street in particular, I can hear the history behind me, I still find myself surprised, years later, to discover old alleys and streets of which I didn't know ... " Suddenly he's missing a bit of music and turns on the stereo, I miss what he has touched there from his chair to get the sound, so I say that definitively "he is the director and magician of this studio". In fact he confesses how much it is important to have this environment around him, the place to create. " Here are all the things I need, just so you do not ever risk losing an idea, an instinct, an intuition, I am ready to paint at any time of day or night, same thing if I need to look photos or paintings or listen to music, or keep silent.
Is mental freedom and the privilege of not wanting else and how important it is to live in a desert, to savor it, recognize it, put passion into it. When I need to see people, I open the door and throw myself into the crowd." He tells me that it is self-taught, he taught himself every technique, oil painting, but also to use a camera to take pictures, and to get the most from technology. " I had the great fortune of always being surrounded by smart people, inspiring artists, actors, musicians, and I learned from every experience, from all the work, provided it was creative. I always told myself that I could learn." I look at a new series of canvas, ready to be painted, I feel it is time to go and leave him to his work. I thank Damian Loeb for inviting me and go out into the street, I know that one of his cameras is watchimg me. I miss the atmosphere of his studio immediately.