Stephen Tashjian

When I was 1st dumped into the bowels of NYC as a youngster of 23 ,waaaaaay back in 1982, I found refuge in a little club on Ave.A just a few blocks north of my apartment/studio called the Pyramid Cocktail Lounge. I was painting away and making my own costumes ,busking on the streets of the big city. One of the many “queens” who befriended me was none other than SAMOA!!He had this incredible musical performance thing called Fredrick & Samoa. It was sort of a Devo new wave thing with a drag twist.(as were most acts at the Pyramid at that time!)But strangely Samoa wasn’t gay!!That club had kooks of every kind!! Though he was DEFINITELY WIERD!!!Back then the neighborhood consisted mostly of old Ukrainian ladies,Porto Rican drug dealers and artists from around the globe.Samoa(via JAPAN) would wonder around in the most incredible outfits patched together from the many (at the time) local thrift shops. Psychedelic  mishmash,gender fluid,sexy,punk rock explosion.A kindred spirit.He immediately solved my money issues by sending me to the guys at the club to secure a go go dancing gig.(which I held for the next 20 years!!)

Samoa is also an incredible painter.Painting today in 2018 seems an odd choice for anyone to pursue and many people think “anyone can paint”. Not so if you ask me. But I LOVE Samoa’s paintings. He is the exception to the rule. His paintings  are as kooky as he is. They are also exquisitely executed.This man can paint! I’ve been a fan for decades of his talent for guitar playing and sexy/bizarre costumes but this recent work in 2D painting is right up there with anything he has done before.In my humble opinion possibly surpassing them.Samoa paints in a realistic  figurative style  .His subjects are usually pop culture icons- Dolly Parton,David Bowie,Andy Warhol or political revolutionaries- Angela Davis,Nina Simone,James Baldwin,Bob Dylan,Cuban Freedom fighters, Native American chiefs or Japanese film stars.

These paintings are HUGE! yet delicately crafted.Done in oil paint and then varnished these baby’s take a long time to make!( and worth the wait!) Usually there is a main figure and all dotted all around them are little perfectly painted sections that could be anything from a mountain waterfall to a mr. Monopoly man!These carry a subtle political message about anything from racism to the exploitation of our planets natural resources.Yet theses messages don’t distract from the overall visual.

Samoa’s inspiration it seems is not Picasso,or Dali or even Rembrandt, but the unlikely “let me teach you to paint” TV GURU Bob Ross!!!! Yes, spotted about Samoa’s creations are “fluffy little clouds” and “tall  green pine trees” direct from the brushes of Mr. Ross! Samoa’s paintings are a thing to behold.Big ,Beautiful and Bold!!and most importantly FUN!!!

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