Photo by Luke Redmond
The first time I met the great Abstract Expressionist painter David Carpenter he told me, “You have a rubbery face, similar to a thigh,” and then, probably because I seemed offended, “A young woman’s thigh, not one of my own.” He’d just turned ninety the week before. We were in his cavernous Tribeca loft studio—he had on some sort of bordello-style silk nightdress from which his arms protruded, welcomingly, pterodactyl-like. Behind him, a ten-year old in a newsboy cap sat in the window smoking a cigarette and looking pensive. This was Billy, the “errand boy.” I appeared to be a “cautious, trusty fellow.” “Did I have a vehicular license?” I was wearing the tie I’d bought for graduation, clutching my Pratt portfolio, and mentally calculating my competition. I’d heard he needed someone down at the corner store we both went to. We were neighbors. I lived on the Chinatown side, in a 5th floor walkup with five other dudes, most of them art students. Carpenter shook my hand. I was hired.