This week’s Dan’s Papers cover artist, Joe Chierchio, doesn’t play it safe. No sooner had he finished his last cover that appeared in February, than he started work on a piece that celebrated Memorial Day, hoping that Dan’s Papers would find it an appropriate image in May 2012. The father and son looking at Bridgehampton’s Founders Monument proved that it was indeed not only an appropriate cover, but a moving one as well.
Q: You have quite a history with creating covers for Dan’s Papers over the years. This is your 12th one, right?
A: Yes, but do you want to hear a funny story about the last one, showing Dan moving from his old building? A friend asked me if I would do a commission for a well-known person who saw that cover and really liked it. Finally, he told me who the client was—Clive Davis, the music producer who has been responsible for many famous singers. After meeting with him, I did a drawing, a montage, of his face in the center, surrounded by small drawings of important events in his life. It turns out that Davis’ father worked for the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I grew up near the Navy Yard.
Q: That commission is another example of how your art tells stories. How is this current cover about storytelling, too?
A: It’s about a father and son or even a grandfather and grandson at the Founders Monument. The older man is explaining about World War II and about people who gave their lives for this country.
Q: What is your connection to World War II?
A: I had five uncles who fought in the War. They were real heroes. Veterans from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are not treated as well now. We have no heroes like we used to.
Q: Would your uncles tell you stories of the war?
A: My Uncle Genie would tell me lots of stories when he came back; he was at Anzio Beach in Italy. He would work long winter nights at home when we were all asleep. I remember my mother made a planter out of the helmet he brought back. I did a painting with a man sitting at a diner based on my uncle. The same image is on the cover of my book, New York, Drawing on the Past.
Q: You are obviously attracted to the past. Do you visit your old Brooklyn neighborhood much?
A: Yes. I like to go to a restaurant and talk about the past, to relive memories. That’s why the subjects in my paintings are nostalgic.
Q: Getting back to the idea of both heroes and the past, who were some of your heroes?
A: I played sports when I was growing up, so I liked sports figures. Michael Jordon was a hero. He always gave you 100%. He played when he was sick, hurt. My art heroes were Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Picasso. Pound for pound, Picasso is the greatest artist of all time. He did so many things; he didn’t stop at one thing. Picasso never played it safe.