Photo by Daniel Wolfskehl
David Aaron Greenberg is an artist who uses multiple modes of expression. His work has been exhibited in various New York City galleries and is in the permanent collection at Stanford University. His critical writing has appeared in Parkett, The Fader, Art in America and Whitehot Magazine. Along with producer David Sisko, he co-founded Disco Pusher, a New York City songwriting and recording duo. Greenberg graduated from Rutgers University, Phi Beta Kappa. He lives in New Jersey and sometimes New York City.
In part 2 of their 3 part interview, David Aaron Greenberg talks about his memories with his idols and his current endeavors.
Continued from Part 1
AK: Is being an artist how you thought it would be?
David Aaron Greenberg: That's a wild question. Like, "I'm going to grow up someday and be an artist"?
AK: Yeah. Did you have that?
David Aaron Greenberg: I had a strange notion of being a rock star, which I was immediately disillusioned with when I started meeting actual rock stars, and realizing how difficult it is. And then I deliberately did not want to be a rock star.
I think the man who put it over the top for me was Joe Strummer, of all the rock stars I've met– and I've met Lou Reed, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Iggy Pop. Some of these people I had relationships and friendships with. I shared a manager with Iggy, this great guy, Art Collins. And then others like Lou Reed hated me. And I never did anything bad to him. In fact, I tried to be nice to him. Maybe that was my problem. I was talking to his wife, Laurie Anderson, who I adore. She's so sweet. I used to do meditation practice with her. I don't know why Lou just didn't like me. I didn't hold it against him. I still respected him as a songwriter.
David Aaron Greenberg & Daniel Carter Performance at Eroica Variations
Photo by David Sisko
But the last thing he said to me, I was talking to Laurie in Christie's during the opening of Allen Ginsberg's estate sale, and John Ashbery read a poem. It was like a poetry reading. And Allen's older brother was there and I was talking to him. The cool thing about Allen and me is that his family was very accepting of me. So Eugene, his brother, said, "I feel like I'm at a garage sale right now". It seemed like a garage sale, but it was at Christie's. It was very weird. So anyway, I was talking to Laurie about how weird it was and how I just saw a T-shirt that actually was mine. I would do Allen’s laundry and our laundry would be mixed, and I just never took it. And there it was, behind glass. You could bid on it. And I'm like, "Oh, well, I guess I'm not getting that back". I think I was telling Laurie, there's my T-shirt, and Lou comes up and goes, "Yo, do you have a cigarette?" And I said, "I don't smoke." and he says, "What good are you?". So that's the last thing he ever said to me. "What good are you?" He never liked me from the beginning. Consistent, I must say.
The first time that he ever interacted with me was when Laurie was performing with Philip Glass and Allen. Lou sat next to me the whole night and didn't talk to me, which is fine. We were watching the show. And then at the end I was starving. But Allen kept saying “There's going to be a dinner afterwards, so save your appetite”. So we're standing, getting a cab, and Lou's standing there off to the side and they're talking. So Allen comes to me, he's like, "Here, take my harmonium in my bag. There's miso soup and brown rice in the icebox." Hello? What about dinner? He said "I'm giving Lou your ticket". I'm like, okay. I said goodbye to Allen, we kissed. And then I went to say bye to Lou, and he just turned. And I was like, "Motherfucker, I worship you". I learned how to play guitar by listening to Bob Dylan, and then I learned how to rock out by listening to Lou Reed. Lou was a dick, and I have friends of mine, some of them no longer with us who adored him. There must have been some good in him. I just didn't happen to ever see it personally.
AK: That was a great story, mostly because I'm interested in knowing what Allen Ginsberg used to eat.
David Aaron Greenberg: Okay, so, this is how I know that Allen cared about me. He left a note– when I was out– that said, "There's miso soup on the stove without seaweed", because he knew I hated seaweed. He loved seaweed and I hated seaweed. He made it without, with me in mind. That's an act of love.
AK: That is an act of love. Food is really a manifestation of love.
David Aaron Greenberg: Right? He underlined "without seaweed".
AK: Looking at your work, I would guess that the body and the likeness of the body is not the objective. You have such an expressive style, I imagine that you're trying to get some kind of essence or energy from them
David Aaron Greenberg: You said it better than I do. You just nailed me right there. Yeah. Exactly.
AK: So what are you working on lately?
David Aaron Greenberg
Featured in Eroica Variations
David Aaron Greenberg: Recently I'm working on an interesting– conceptually, it's interesting because it's a portrait of Fulano Librizzi, and I've been drawing or painting Fulano Librizzi since he was a sonogram. I think the first portrait I did, I couldn't really get to him until he was maybe four. And even then, he was highly suspect of me at age four. He had good instincts, he knew to keep his distance from me at four. I couldn't handle him at four. I had to wait. When he was around eight, I think I got a good likeness of him. So, I'm working on a portrait of him called Fulano and Fam, with his mother and father behind him. But that's taken me forever and ever. Because first of all, he keeps changing, he keeps getting taller. And it's impossible to keep up with him at this point. I think I have to wait till the last growth spurt. He'll be 20. Will you please stop growing and changing? So, it's a conceptual thing.
AK: And you're featured in The Trops exhibition, Eroica Variations. You have three or four paintings in the show?
David Aaron Greenberg: There's four because there's one in the bathroom. Everyone forgets the bathroom painting. The bathroom works really well. I would prefer if someone bought it, that they put it in the bathroom.
Continue to Part 3