A Talk with Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Joe Chierchio

Dan's Papers cover art (DETAIL) by Joe Chierchio
Dan's Papers cover art (DETAIL) by Joe Chierchio

Avid Dan’s Papers readers will surely recognize this week’s humorous cover as the work of part-time Water Mill resident Joe Chierchio. To date Chierchio has created 20 memorable Dan’s Papers covers. Find out what inspired the one that graces our Thanksgiving issue this week.

The art begs the question, are you a vegetarian?
No, I’m not. Eating turkey for Thanksgiving is part of Americana.

This cover had the “Dan’s Papers” staff chuckling. I once counted 15 turkeys crossing the road in Hampton Bays.
Oh, absolutely. Especially in the spring—you’ll see the mother, father and then at least 10 young ones. At our place in Water Mill, there’s a corral for the horses, and the turkeys go right in there. They don’t bother the horses; they just like to eat the grain. I thought about the subliminal message here, with the guy holding out a stop sign, and it could be telling us to stop eating turkeys.

What are you working on now?
A few things: classic car drawings, for one, with beautiful women surrounding the car. The working title is “Bodies of Work,” get it?—the women and cars both have great bodies, and I like the connection. I’m working on that and also on some tugboats…going up and down the East River… [And] I’m always working on new covers for Dan’s…I’m shooting for 50.

What are you showing out here now?
I’m showing a lot of my sculptures at Chrysalis Gallery in Southampton—some in marble, alabaster, limestone…they’re all free-form, nothing realistic. In my drawings I don’t go in that direction, but in my sculpture I like a pure, non-objective form. In my drawings, it’s all about form too, but I start with an interesting visual with a narrative. I like the drawings to be fun to look at, engaging, for people to feel good about the work.

There’s something to be said for that.
Yes, well, for the past 20 to 30 years, narrative art has been put to the side, but I love it, I love telling a story. I see so many empty paintings out there…void of idea and emotion. Like I was saying before about the “bodies of work,” it’s not just a one-shot thing, I try to come up with a body of work. As they say in advertising, “it has wheels”—it can go somewhere. There can be a second, a third—when you want to make a statement it’s nice that it continues.

A lot of artists worked that way—it makes your work seem bigger, a bigger idea. When I was a creative director in advertising, I couldn’t come up with just one ad for the client, he wanted a few to choose from. You need something they would want to build on and run for a year or two. I like to use that thinking in my work, too.

When you were in advertising, what were some of your projects?
I worked on a lot of food accounts, Proctor & Gamble, General Mills, also L’eggs pantyhose. To be good at it, you should be able to work on any account they give you. I never smoked in my life, but 20 or 30 years ago I did some terrific cigarette ads, and I did really good L’eggs pantyhose ads, having never worn them. It’s a very good discipline to change your mindset for each product. For the food, it had to be more warm and fuzzy, catering to families, and for the pantyhose it had to be more sexy and feminine. It forces you to be very flexible. As an artist I don’t want to do the same old, same old. My work is becoming more contemporary now—I’m pushing the envelope, I don’t want vagueness on the canvas. With this classic car series, I’m doing a lot of commissions. I go to homes, take pictures of their car—the more reference [material] you have, the better.

Classic car owners would notice every detail.
You have to be accurate, especially if you want new commissions. Say I’m doing a Jaguar that’s in “British racing green”—you have to get that exact color, and know that the interior is usually tan or camel color. My work has appeared in Hemmings Classic Car magazine, which is kind of the bible for classic cars, and I get commissions through there. Cars are moving works of art.

See more of Joe Chierchio’s work at joechierchio.com.

Dan's Papers cover art by Joe Chierchio
Dan’s Papers cover art by Joe Chierchio

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