David Foote seems to be the character representation of his art. The surface: trendy, bright, and easygoing, with a devil-may-care posture that you could hang above your couch or share a shot of tequila with in some obscure downtown haunt. Scratch a bit at that surface and you’ll find and interesting juxtaposition, a slight exploration of darkness with a solicitous interior and spectacular call for detail. His work “The New Girls” is simple in its conception of graphic female faces. But darkness is in the details: the macabre looks, vacant eyes, and tiny slugs scrawled in the hair of his intrepid beauties.
David wears a deep V-neck shirt, scarf, and a mop of shiny hair, confirming why The Daily Mini named him one of the 50 most stylish people in the world. He greets me smiling, but something isn’t right. He’s trying to cover up his concern regarding his show, “(in) Res-i-dence,” a month long exhibit at 20 Pine. With Tim Goossens of P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art curating the show and Whitewall, Porsche Design’s‘ “The Essence,” and Kwiat Diamonds hosting the opening, he seems as though he should be able to relax, but Foote isn’t used to handing over such power to others. His applied approach to every aspect of his work is refreshing; his small empire is growing to include Jaboneria Marianella, a luxury soap line; Fluorescent Films; and his acclaimed illustrations and artwork. It seems as though David Foote was born under a lucky star, but a closer look suggests his talent expands to include hard work, a hands-on methodology, and an eye for marketing.
So what’s the problem today? The lighting? This show is like a luxury living concept. It’s my paintings on the wall, so I want it to be portrayed in a sort of intimate light. You see it on a certain wall in a residence, kind of like how it would look in your house. It gives you an experience. I want it to also feel as though you’re at a house party. It’s intimate, it’s not dark, it gives you a much more personal experience.
This is your second show? This is my second. The first show I had, I sold 70% of everything.
So your very first show you sold 70%? 70% sold, and I got a lot of press and a lot of schedules.
How do you feel about that? To be honest I was really scared because I had never really shown my work like that before. And when you do something like that you are kind of protective of, it is very nerve-racking. I put my all into whatever I do. Before the show we were drilling and setting up the show ourselves. An hour before the show, we were literally covered in dust, just drilling into the ceiling, disgusting. Then I literally ran into the bathroom, cleaned up put on a suit, and walked out and started greeting people. I was terrified. I’ve been in New York for 10 years, you know how people are, especially at art openings.
How are people? I don’t want to say, just judgmental or something.
Do you think that may be a generality? Is that maybe an artist’s insecurity speaking? No. I’m speaking when you are at an art show, when you have all kinds of people there for many different reasons, many different alibis. My fear is that when you’re there, as an artist, you can feel very vulnerable that night because you set yourself up for everybody to be judging your work. I was scared, but then I got up and started walking around and people are discussing the work. And it was the craziest experience. There were just so many people, and I was just bouncing back and forth and listening to people to hear what they were saying.
You’ve been in New York for 10 years, but you are from Venezuela. Did you study here? Yeah, I went to art school.
Is that what pushed you to move here? It’s so funny, when I was like two years old, I told my mom that when I’m big I’m going to live in New York, I’m gonna make movies and drive a BMW. But the only thing that didn’t come true is the driving because I don’t know how to drive. I refuse to drive; I always feel like I’m not a good driver, and the times I have it’s been really bad.
So everything has gone to plan, other than getting into car accidents. Yes. My life has gone according to plan; basically I’ve always known what I wanted to do. When I was a year old, I climbed on a ladder in my house and I drew a Mickey Mouse. I have a photo of that Mickey that is the cover of my portfolio. When I got to NYU and after I finished school I really wanted to do film. I did music videos and commercials. At this one event I was working with these friends of mine; it was an event for the New York Observer and they were like, can you draw something on these big reams made of newspaper. I started drawing these girls. I didn’t think much of it. I come back and they are freaking out, people telling me “Oh, I’m bidding on your work.” And they were selling for $4,000.
So prior to that, you weren’t really thinking about doing a show of any sort. Well, I had been doing these sketches, and it was kind of organic. I was thinking about ways to transfer these onto the page. So I started using different, metaphoric images transferred to a big canvas. I love painting, but when I finished the series I closed that chapter. I’m not that kind of artist that can do the same thing, the same kind of work. After the show, I started working with Johan Lindeberg, and I did special features with what became the New Girls, out of that he was working on.
Do you have a feel for an eye for marketing as well, and perhaps that has a lot to do with why your work is so marketable? The thing I love most about New York and kind of developing within New York is that you’re surrounded by people are doing so many different things. You’re not surrounded by people who are talking like you, doing the same things as you are. So, I chose to learn as many things as I possibly could, so now I know how to do PR if I had to, with a large network of many different people in different fields. I know how to market myself. For example, the soap line — when it started, I had to completely forget about myself as a person, become completely humble, and I had to go get the package and pitch it to a soap company.
Is what you’re doing natural to you? That’s the way I operate. I’m just trying to take it to the next level. Last year I worked nonstop for one year, and I stopped working in January. And I had managed to save all my money, and this is the year when I know I can do my own thing. When you do something, you have to dedicate yourself to it. Basically my day is I have to wake up at 7a.m. and deal with the soap company, and then I have to paint for like 10 hours.
How do you have so much structure but also allow yourself to be creative? You just have to find a place. I find for example music is a great place to start. I immediately hear the music, and I get back into that place. It just mentally brings you back there. I deal with a lot of stressful things, and doing this is really cathartic.
How is painting different than film for you? Painting is something you do for yourself, by yourself. When you’re making a film with several people, you are trusting all these people to get one thing done. So it’s a very different process than sitting there by myself. When I look at my painting, every line is made for a reason. The thing that I love the most is I’m receiving recognition now for what I did all my life. I always thought my first big break would come from my film.
Is recognition important to you? Not really. I just I truck along. I’m a go-getter. The way I was raised is do what you love. You have to keep a positive mind, and you have to do all you can. As long as I know I did my best, I’m fine at the end of the day.
If you weren’t involved with these projects, what would you do? I have no concept of that.
(in) Res-i-dence, a month long exhibit at 20 Pine ends October 18th. Curator: Tim Goossens of P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art. Hosted in Part by: Whitewall Magazine, Porsche Design The Essence and Kwiat Diamonds. For a Private Viewing Please Contact: Heir Apparent at 212-643-0406 Photos courtesy of Liam Alexander Photo.