22 Questions for Painter Dana Schutz

Artist Dana Schutz
(Photo © Micah Aaron Schmidt)

Name: Dana Schutz
Age: 35
Occupation: Artist
City/Neighborhood: Gowanus, Brooklyn

The title of your new show at Friedrich Petzel — “Piano in the Rain” — conjures notions of music and romance, but also the implicit threat of ruin and self-destruction. How does the title relate to the show?


I thought “Piano in the Rain” sounded tragic-comic and conjured thoughts of possible performances like singing in the rain, Elton John behind a big white piano, or Axel Rose in his one of his more dramatic moments. Also, piano seems best in the rain, but poses a technical dilemma.

In 2010 you told ARTINFO, “A painting wants something from you, to be your friend or to kill you.” How should your new paintings affect the viewer?

I think some of them are exhibitionists, some are awkward dancers, and some want to make you yawn.

Although you tend to create alternate universes in your paintings, you don’t want them to “hole up in their own realm of fantasy.” Instead, they ought to “take into account what’s going on outside.” Which “real world” events inspired your new work?

I love that story of the woman freaking out on the Clyfford Still painting. I think the way it was described in the press was that she punched, peed, and rubbed “in and around” the painting. That, as well as having many friends going through transitions these past few years. I wanted these paintings to be about process and not knowing how you are going to land.

Your paintings often begin with a hypothetical situation, such as “what if people could cannibalize themselves?,” or “what if there were two people left on earth?” You’re intrigued by the idea of “questionable pictures,” or “pictures that maybe shouldn’t be pictures.” What is the most “questionable” scenario you’ve thought of?

A woman giving birth.  

What project are you working on now?

I’m working on drawings for a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Dever in the fall.

What's the last show that you saw?

Tom McGrath at Sue Scott.

What's the last show that surprised you? Why?

I don’t know if it counts as an art show, but the Werner Herzog movie “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” was pretty surprising. Seeing all of those cave drawings in motion and three dimensions was mind blowing.

What's your favorite place to see art?

The Met.

What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

My palette knife and my radio.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

From drawing, writing, and talking to friends.

Do you collect anything?


What's the last artwork you purchased?

Keith Mayerson’s “The Dalai Lama Teaching the Diamond Cutter Sutra and Seventy Verses on Emptiness at Radio City Music Hall.” I love it so much!

What's the first artwork you ever sold?

A painting of a man playing the saxophone that I sold to my flute teacher when I was 16.  It was weird.

What's your art-world pet peeve?


What's your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

Don Giovanni’s pizza.

Do you have a museum/gallery going routine?

Not really, it depends on what’s up.

What's the last great book you read?

“The Human Stain” by Phillip Roth. 

What work of art do you wish you owned?

Goya’s  “Saturn Devouring his Son.”

What would you do to get it?

Nothing. It’s best where people can see it.

What international art destination do you most want to visit?

Right now the Orangerie in Paris.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

Charlotte Becket.

What are your hobbies?

I like to dance, see music shows, make mixes and try and fail to set up friends.