Feb 7, 2020
Joe Coleman is a writer, historian, obsessive collector of things, performance artist, and a great painter. The New York Times described Joe's paintings best:
If P. T. Barnum had hired Breughel or Bosch to paint sideshow banners, they might have resembled the art of Joe Coleman. Obsessively depicting a grim moral universe of transgression and retribution, Mr. Coleman paints grotesque images of murderers and victims, freaks and monsters, disease, depravity and perversities of every kind.
In his painstakingly detailed paintings, Charles Manson leers, JonBenet Ramsey pouts, pinheads dance, drunkards lie with poxied whores, and corpses display their wounds like obscene stigmata. Drug addicts loll in ruined cityscapes under boiling H-bomb skies, 1930’s gangsters grin on their way to the gallows, and Mr. Coleman and his wife, Whitney Ward, reign over the apocalypse, enthroned on the head of a giant Satan. In a startlingly prophetic vision of his from 2000, the twin towers burn.
Joe's performance work from the 1980's was some of the most radical of its time, and can be seen in the 1988 film Mondo New York . The book on extreme performance, Avant Garde from Below: Transgressive Performance from Iggy Pop to Joe Coleman and G.G. Allin by Clemens Marschall, explores Coleman's influence during this pivotal period.
Joe Coleman is the subject of a feature length documentary, Rest in Pieces: A Portrait of Joe Coleman. He has appeared in acting roles in films such as Asia Argento's Scarlet Diva (2000) and The Cruel Tale of the Medicine Man (2015). He lives with his wife Whitney Ward in Brooklyn, New York.
In this episode Lydia's cohost is Episode 16 guest Jasmine Hirst. Joe tells the tragic story of Swift Runner, a Cree Indian from Alberta, who in the late 1870's ate his family. Swift Runner is the subject of one of his paintings.
Other topics include, Joe's work as a taxi driver, guilt, and the time former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson bought a painting of garbage he did as a child.