As a practicing artist myself, the studio has always been a place of myth and legend— Dash Snow littered his coffee tables with lines of coke, John Baldessari shows up every day at the exact same time, Kiki Smith lets her cats wander freely across her drawings. The studio is that liminal space where artists become people, working class like you and me. For all the talk of big ideas and critical theory that I admittedly enjoy, sometimes you just want to get down and dirty and find out how the sausage gets made. This week I sit down with Dean Rosenzweig, aka SWag, to dig into the nitty gritty of how a studio and street artist lives and works in Berlin.
BAPs: Why do you make art? What drives you?
DR: When I first started painting and every time I have painted since, it gives me a feeling of being whole. It’s like the best part of taking a new drug for the first time. With a drug you’re chasing the high, with painting the high is chasing me. I’m still always trying to re-invent my paintings as I go, to come up with something new that satisfys me in a way that previous works have not. Sometimes that can drive me crazy because I’ll constantly paint on top of paintings that I thought were finished.
BAPs: What was the first piece of art you ever made?
DR: The first real piece was after I had moved into a warehouse in Philadelphia. There were all these giant pieces of wood left there from the tenant before me, each piece was about 6 feet high and 3 feet wide. It was a self portrait of me with no skin—pretty much life size. I know I have it stored somewhere in Philadelphia for safekeeping.
Dean Rosenzweig with his work. Photo: Jan Cain
BAPS: I know you have a studio practice––what does a day or a night in the studio with Dean look like? Can you describe a typical studio session?
DR: It can be quite messy once I get on a roll. I prefer to paint at night so there are usually a few drinks and smokes involved. I will usually set up 5 or 6 canvases at a time and move in between them. Listening to music while I paint is a must as well. I also usually have a few friends around painting or being creative. I always like the idea of being creative with other artists and making compilation pieces, as well.
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