November 7th, 2008
A NIGHT OUT
WITH JOSEPH ARTHUR
Doing Things You're Not
Gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn is no longer open.
MOMAR Joseph Arthur at the Museum of Modern Arthur, his
gallery in Brooklyn, with two bandmates, Sibyl Buck, center, and
JOSEPH ARTHUR, the singer, songwriter and
artist, has created his own little artistic paradise in the Dumbo
section of Brooklyn. The Museum of Modern Arthur, open to the public
every Tuesday through Sunday, serves as Mr. Arthur’s version of Andy Warhol’s
Factory: a place he and his friends can get together to exercise
their imaginations, which often involves creating art for the gallery,
recording music in the studio in the back, silk-screening clothing
or just talking.
On a recent blustery evening, Mr. Arthur,
wearing the “lucky” hat
that he had bought in Nottingham, England, was entertaining a couple
of members of his five-piece band, the Lonely Astronauts, and some
friends. He was about to embark on a solo European tour as the opening
act for Tracy Chapman.
Despite the jittery sounds of the “Psycho” movie soundtrack
in the background, the mood in the gallery was peaceful, with the
aroma of sage incense filling the air. Sibyl Buck — a bass
player and former model (and the stylish Edie to Mr. Arthur’s
Warhol) — told everyone of a performance artist who had been
smashing car windows in the name of art.
“The new definition of art is when you do something and other
people talk about it,” she said.
Mr. Arthur, who at 6 feet 4 inches describes
himself as circus tall, said that when it comes to his artistic
pursuits, like the band’s
new album, “Temporary People,” and his latest exhibition, “Wigs,” at
Galerie Pangée in Montreal, he strives to be more contemplative.
He added that he avoided spending too much time on “meaningless” diversions
“I just prefer real life, like this,” he said, gesturing
to those around him. “This is so nice. Later we’ll see
each other again in cyberspace, but it won’t be like this.”
There is a familial unity to Mr. Arthur’s
band members, a closeness that can be felt by one outside their
inner circle. Appropriately, they have matching tattoos of a perfect
circle, a permanent bond they got just one week after they met
one another two years ago.
Jen Turner, the lead guitarist, pointed out
an identical circle on the sleeve of her Army jacket. “The band regalia,” she
said. “We all wore these for a gig.”
Late that night, Mr. Arthur and Ms. Buck strolled
the cobblestone streets of Dumbo, with its remnants of streetcar
tracks, on their way to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Flanked by the Brooklyn
and Manhattan Bridges, the rocky beach is a favorite haunt of Mr.
He goes there a lot, he said.
“I call it Joe’s place,” he said, skipping a stone
toward the cityscape across the water. He added, “I think a
lot of people call it Joe’s place.”
It was a soothing, if somewhat unusual, way
to wind up an evening, bringing to mind a comment that David Letterman
made when the Lonely Astronauts made one of their appearances on
his show: “I want
to go with those people. I would like to be with those people. I
think they’re probably doing things I’m not.”
It’s not actually that they’re
always doing “fabulous
stuff,” Ms. Buck said. “But he knew it was something
different than what other people are doing at midnight.” - By