My paintings of casino gaming and players are exhibited for the first time. All are original oil paintings, created in my studio using various types of reference, including phone cam snapshots, Moleskine sketches, stock photos, and most importantly, personal observation.
Before I relocated to Las Vegas, my artwork was influenced by the old masters of Abstract Expressionism. In other words, it was not too original. My work was received without enthusiasm by art dealers, and I relied on friends and family for support.
A good friend, and gaming enthusiast, called the problem as he saw it. He argued passionately in favor of the Las Vegas lifestyle. “The Strip,” he said, “has all the excitement of New York City without the hardships.” He was right. My first impression of Las Vegas was of a level of excitement I had never witnessed before.
My friend often said he would live in Vegas, but for the many personal and professional ties that bound him to home. He had to be content with the occasional junket to Las Vegas. I, on the other hand, had very few ties. I was barely holding on.
I listened as my friend extolled the joys of risking small stakes on a potential jackpot. We reached an understanding that he was not urging me to risk everything by moving to Las Vegas, but to work in the artistic genre of gaming, and of gamblers.
My friend (who wrote a gossip column), was an astute observer of human nature. He convinced me of the art-worthiness of, to quote Mario Puzo, “degenerate gamblers,” in other words, living on the edge.
I am not a gambler, myself, but I have experienced both winning and losing. It is possible to catch a glimpse of the gambler lifestyle without risking everything. Art, like gambling, is not a part-time occupation. It is an obsession.
I memorized Basic Strategy. With $100 in a slot machine which offered double down and split hands, I reached a level at which I could play 5-6 hands a minute for an hour, break even, cash out, and bring the same ticket back the next night to play again.
But reflecting on the mediocre return for the effort, I realized that it is impossible, in the long run, to beat the house. Astute players know this, but they also know and appreciate the perks of betting big. I earned comps.
With this in mind, I sought a way to make something lasting of the gambling lifestyle: a souvenir. These paintings, on the subject of casino gaming, and gamers, are my attempt at making the pleasures of gaming a thing of lasting enjoyment.
A Game of Cards (1499)
Unknown Artist - Woodcut print
The Card Players (c. 1508)
Lucas van Leyden - Oil on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC)
By the Roulette (1903)
Edvard Munch - Oil on canvas
Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway
The Card Players (c. 1625)
TheodoorRombouts - Oil on canvas
Koninklijk Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp, Belgium
Soldiers Playing at Cards (1917)
Fernand Leger - Oil on canvas
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands