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The Street Painters

Panel Discussion

Where the Street Has Taken Us

An In-Depth Report by Elgin Tarlow
Tad Day
Tad Day - Street Painter

An historic panel discussion at the Art Students League of NY

"Where the Street Has Taken Us",

       a panel discussion by that historic original group, The Street Painters, was a truly extraordinary even.

Tad Day had often commented that "the street is his studio" before his untimely death in 2005.

The participating artists on the panel were: Ken McIndoe, Ronald DeNota, Myron Heise, and Ivan Nunez.

Each street painter had highly personal reactions to the topic at hand, relating to where the street has taken them. As a group, they share a common belief that if artists are not seen, they don't exist. They nationalized to be seen in the world during the late 70s. The Street Painters movement began with Anarchy and Feelism as their mantra.

Heise Street Painter
Myron Heise - Street Painter

DeNota and Heise

Ronald DeNota & Myron Heise

The Street Painters

DeNota and Burns
Ronnie De Nota and Lucy Burns

Wall of Paintings
Wall of Paintings


Myron Heise began painting outside on 42nd Street, during the 70s, with Ronnie DeNota and Tad Day. On the seedy edge of 42nd Street, they often found their subject matter: smelly side-alleys, garbage, with homeless people and staggering drunks often portrayed in their mood of lonliness, despondency and desperation. Painting is not supposed to be genteel, rather it should be challenging in some way. When an artist improvises, his soul comes out. As for subject matter, it's an attitude that takes over. What happens in the street helps the artist move through his transitions and transcendent states.

Over the last several years, Myron Heise often paints with Ronald DeNota and Andy Pizzo around the city. Collectively, their reason for painting outside was to get out of the studio. And outside is the place where forms are constantly changing. Myron finds everything beautiful in both urban and rural nature, choosing his cityscape subject in terms of geometry. He discovers many abstract elements while immersed in painting a landscape. He most admires the tradition of the Ashcan painters, Glackens and Luks.

Myron Heise can usually finish a painting in one day. But sometimes he will go back into it as many as three times, on location. Then, he often finishes his paintings in his studio. This artist often paints outside in the city at night where he produced many of his "Night Paintings". He often tries to find bright street lights to work under. These lights distort true paint colors, so in that case, he resorts to working with tones or values. He knows where his paints are on his palette, so he can work with minimal information. When asked if he ever saw himself as a painter of another language, he responded that he had found his own personal language. He doesn't have to go to all these other places. Been there - done that. All of the Street Painters have evolved into their own. Several years ago, when he saw the Corot show at a museum, he studied it intensely. Later when he was on the street working, he found that he could see through Corot's eyes. But he knew that he didn't want to paint like Corot since he has his own way of seeing.

Ronald DeNota studies the street for a long time before he chooses his subject matter. His technique is so unusual in that he does not use a palette. He paints directly from the tube, and squeezes his paint on the brush as one would do with toothpaste when brushing their teeth. He believes in using pure color from the tube while mixing his paint directly on the canvas. He begins by drawing with the paint. Then he takes the paint and works it into the drawing. He works rapidly and knows exactly what he is going to do. He does not duplicate reality. He keeps all his tubes open at the same time while the paint cakes up. He uses only one or two brushes: a round bristle to draw with, and then another one to paint with. Ronnie says that he learns from the other artists, and they all learn from each other.

Ken McIndoe says that painting is an improvisation like a piece of jazz. It flows out of oneself regardless of the subject at hand. He feels that he is too close to his paintings. He has to wait several years and then stop to look at them and even then it's difficult. Sometimes he goes back to a spot where he painted at one time and finds that he does not recognize it. He finds himself changing as he paints. That's why he paints . . . to change himself.

Ivan Nunez takes more than a moment to interact with the city, instead of being in his studio. He claims that "the city is my studio". He says, as far as composition goes: you work with it; there's always something there, even in the most mundane locations, and if you look, you will find it. When he arrives at the canvas, he captures the feeling and then attacks the canvas.

The Street Painters Exhibition

at The Art Students League of NY

Panel Discussion: Where The Street Has Taken Us

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