The Artist's Guide to the L.A. Galaxy

Photograph of Leah Tinari. Courtesy of Leah Tinari.
Leah Tinari: Oh Yes She Does!, 2008, gouache on paper, 15 inches by 11 inches. Courtesy of Mixed Greens.
Leah Tinari's artwork appealed to my sensibility when I saw it a few years ago. What drew me to it was the balance between the seeming lighthearted nature of the caricatures that depicts a freewheeling group of people and a serious sociological statement about the excesses of the American character. I often asked my instinct whether the artist was depicting yuppies and party people in a sympathetic way or not. Her work reminds me very much of Otto Dix's acerbic, satirical paintings.

Tinari often incorporates herself into the masquerade with a sharply observant eye. I really think that none of her work is photorealistic but heavily stylized in an oversaturated atmosphere. Like gaudy Polaroids, her depictions of her milieu become a take off from the postmodern leisure that marked the tight-knit world of upper-class debutantes and luxurious mansions similar to the television show "The Hills." Her ambiguous attitude towards the nouveau riche suggests that these characters cannot be judged without understanding the complexities and consequences of the way they live. With strong overtones of a Whit Stillman film.

If you have any questions about Tinari's paintings or her works on paper, feel free to contact Mixed Greens at or at (212) 331-8888.

Tinari's work has a rather exciting tenor that reflects the lifestyles of our rapidly changing country. Now on to the show and so here are THE ART ASSASSIN's latest details of this character "assassination":

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, video games, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Leah Tinari: What am I watching on TV right now? 24, Lost, Project Runway, Gossip Girl, Spartacus (so bad but I can't stop watching it maybe because of the soft core porn or all the blood and gore), all reruns of Arrested Development, American Idol, Yo Gabba Gabba and Sesame Street with my son Mars. The last video game I played was on my Intelevision set I was probably in the fifth grade.  Haven't been to the movies as of late, you know new mom and all, getting to the movies is quite difficult.  some of my favorites though... Chopper, Pirates of the Carribean, The French Connection, Deer Hunter, Waiting for Guffman (pretty much anything Christopher Guest), First Blood, Pretty Woman oh I could go on forever oh The Hangover I've already seen it five times. I am reading right now True Crime An American Anthology, I just finished The Woods by Harlan Coben, he is a regular at my parents restaurant and just a lovely person so I want to read all his books, The Woods I thought was a very good read, Wicked and Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire, of course I loved the Twilight Series I am still pretty intwinded in it and can't wait for the next movie to come out, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (my painting is on the book cover! it's actually a portrait of my little sister) just in case you wanted to know. To be honest I have not been to see a gallery show in ages. When I am not with my son in the park I am in the studio working away.

qi peng: What is the methodology behind your paintings and drawings from start to finish, from preparatory studies to the completed work? And what is an average day like within the Leah Tinari studio? What are doing commissions like?

Leah Tinari: The process usually starts with an event. I work from photographs that I take. My camera tends to come out at celebratory events, birthday parties, vacations, weddings, prom, the beach. I make drawings from the photographs and the paintings emerge from the drawings. My studio days are wonderful and pretty much exactly the same. I pack my lunch most of the time, sliced chicken breast, american cheese (obsessed with it) cucumber, lettuce, mustard and mayo. I usually eat my sandwich while I am painting. Some days I have a Diet Coke with my sandwich and those are special days. Other days, if I don't pack my lunch, I will order from Plump Dumpling, it is my dirty little secret because my husband hates Chinese food so we never get to have it at home. I usual have channel seven on so I can listen to my soaps while I paint and oprah and the news but I don't get reception on my rabbit ears anymore because I need the new box for my TV so I have been listening to NPR which I like, but it is throwing me off a bit and I really do miss Sunny Corinthos and Erica Kane! I can't even believe I've missed the whole story line with James Franco playing an artist on General Hospital! Getting that damn 40 dollar box is at the top of my list! Some days I will gossip with my studio mate, Anna when we are there at the same time. We went to RISD together and those days are very enjoyable. I am sure she is secretly happy my TV doesn't work.  Commisions can been difficult at times, clients will send me photos or one photo they want me to work from. On occasion, I will get the painting back because the client would like me to change something, this can be frustrating for me.  Clients hired me for my style, I am not your traditional portrait painter and then I give the a Leah Tinari painting and they want me to change it. Other times it can be a very rewarding experience and the clients are so happy and love the painting and that makes me very pleased. There have also been times when the clients have included letters about the people in the pictures so that I get a sense of personality behind the people I am painting. These letters can be hilarious or maybe a little boderline crazy, which makes it even better experience for me.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite cuisine or dishes that you enjoy? Considering that food is essential for the artistic soul, what things do you enjoy about meals either prepared in a restaurant or home setting?

Leah Tinari: I love to eat and cook. I am 100% Italian descent , my mom is an incredible chef and my brother is an amazing  cook as well. My parents own a restaurant, Janice a Bistro in Ho-Ho-Kus NJ. Next to thinking about my painting, I think about food! I love planning our meals for the day and upcoming weekend. I love reading about restaurants and dining out! I grew up eating the most amazing home cooked Italian food so it is hard for me to eat out Italian, but I am crazy for Japanese Cuisine. I spent three weeks in Japan with two of my best friends and we had such awesome food experiences there.I also love seasonal local food. I live in the East Village of NYC and there are so many great restaurants and great food things happening here, we have the best green markets and farmer's markets that we can get the best produce and meat etc... We did just eat beef heart for the first time on a crostini with marrow butter, it was crazy good though I thought I was going to have the strength and adreniline of a giant cow after that, I was a little scared I woud be able to walk outside and flip someones Mini Cooper over with my bare hands!

qi peng: Also, on the same note, do you have any wine, beer, or drink recommendations? How do these choices reflect your personality?

Leah Tinari: Oh yes, I love savory drinks, nothing sweet ever! I am a vodka martini drinker, a bit dirty with olives but lately when I make a martini at home I have been putting tomolives in the martini instead of olives (tomolives are special small green tomatoes that have been pickled, they really taste exactly like a Burger King burger, the ketchup and pickle taste together) I also love a Bloody Caesar which my husband and I discovered up in Prince Edward Island while he was working on this movie. It is vodka with Clamato Juice (tomato juice with clam broth) Worchester Sauce, Tabasco, lime on the rocks and Celery Salt around the rim of your glass. My other favorite that I get here in NY at Balthazar is a Bull Shot, it is not a shot you drink it as a cocktail. It is vodka and beef broth with Worchester sauce and lemon on the rocks. It is unbelievable. My mother's father was a butcher and had a butcher shop in the Bronx and she would tell me stories of him making homemade beef broth for her and put it in a mug and she would drink it, maybe that is my connection... my desire to drink beef broth it is that butcher blood in me! I think these drinks that I order always surprise people they think that this small girl wouldn't be ordering such serious cocktails or maybe even as far as to say these manly cocktails. I kind of feel like that reflects my personality, people might see me and expect me to be a certain type of person and then once we start chatting they realize I am not at all what they were expecting. Like the bartenders probably expect by the looks of me I would order a Cosmo, but then low and behold I am ordering a Bull Shot. I am a tom boy at heart with some great girly high heels!

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Brooklyn or New York City, where you are based out of or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Leah Tinari: The Saint Marks Book Store is the best! You want to buy every art book and every new title out there. They know how to place the right books out and it just sucks you in... all of a sudden two hours have past! In Williamsburg, Brooklyn I love Marlow and Sons. They make the best cocktails and have incredible oysters and meat and cheese plates. In the front of the restaurant it looks like an old mom and pop grocery and then you walk throught the grocery to a perfectly dimmly lit restaurant bar, you never want to leave. I always love to saddle up to the bar at Balthazar in the city  with a friend and eat the Steak Tartar and Frites. Our friends own St. Dymphna's Bar on St. Marks in the East Village so we love to go there for cocktails. It is a very cosy Irish bar (though our girlfirends who bought it are Portuguese, funny!), I also happened to bartend there for 5 years right out of college so there is history there. Momofuku, everything is delicious! Liquiteria the best juices I've ever had and the service is the best, not only do you feel healthy being there because you are drinking all these greens and fruits but the staff makes you happy because they are so up beat and kind. Oh I could write a book about all my favorite culinary spots

qi peng: Do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time? How do these activities inform the work that you pursue? With your personal interests, are your artistic projects a mirror of those hobbies you enjoy best?

Leah Tinari: Yes, I love to cook , entertain and eat! I love to read and I love to read my cooking mags, so sad about Gourmet, it was shocking. I love to fish, my friend Darren is a captian, he lives in Florida and has a beautiful fishing boat. We have fished many times together in the Keys, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and yes I have made many painting based on these fishing vacations. His boat's name is the "Feeling Sexy". I created the logo for the side of his boat. It is a hot babe in a red bikini riding on top of a Marlin, like she is riding a bull at a rodeo. It is pretty funny... and sexy!

qi peng: How has life been working with the gallery and museum system such Mixed Greens for displaying and promoting your wonderful pieces? Have there been any challenges in working with gallery owners and museum directors?

Leah Tinari: My gallery here in New York City is Mixed Greens. They are so fantastic, I have had a wonderful business and personal relationship with them. I have always felt they are different form other galleries, they think outside the box and you also can get to know the people behind the gallery. They are very present and available to the artists and to anyone who steps foot in the gallery. They really look out for me and my career as an artist! They are very honest and have always helped me to make the right desicions. I feel like over the years Mixed Greens has grown as a gallery and I have been growing right along side them. I am very happy with them and I do feel that this is more amd more of a rarity that artists are happy with there galleries, I have heard many horror stories!

qi peng: What are some of your future projects or exhibitions that you will be pursuing soon? Does working with non-profits and museums differ much than working with commercial galleries? So will these new artworks be an extension of the themes and ideas that you are examining now or perhaps a different direction instead?

Leah Tinari: I have a Solo show in Milan, Italy opening in September with ROJO Art Space this year and then the show travels to Barcelona, Spain for a November opening. I also have a solo show opening at Mixed Greens in Novemeber! I am not sure what work will travel overseas yet, I am not even sure that the work has been made yet, that is why I will be working very hard in the next 6 to 8 months! As for the show at Mixed Greens, I am working on a series of portraits that are based on photographs from a photo booth that I made for my last opening "Sneek a Peak" at Mixed Greens. The photo booth documented people who attended the opening as well as people who came to see the show over the month it was up. I am interested in this series of work because the photos I am choosing are more serious portraits of people. They feel very different from my loud party paintings, there is a quiteness to them, a stillness that I have been desiring.

qi peng: Do you consider your paintings and works on paper as a form of sociological documentation? The convivial scenes seem to reflect an optimism that is unusual within the art world which has become quite philosophical and perhaps over-intellectualized. Do you consider yourself an upbeat person and how does your attitude to the lovely aspects of life show within your work?

Leah Tinari: Yes I do. I think there is an unusal optimism in my work, but I also think that way about myself. I have always been unusally optimistic and this is not because my life has been a bed of roses because that is false. I have dark days as well, but I love to laugh and enjoy my life because so many are so much less fortunate than I. I am healthy, I have a wonderful family, incredibly smart, talented friends that I am surrounded by and I make a living doing what I absolutley love and I get to take hot showers at night. What could be better than that! I have always been drawn to people and people's faces, I am a very social person so it makes perfect sense to me that I am a portrait painter.

qi peng: What is the nature of friendships and connections within the art world in relation to your personal life? How did you manage to develop so many wonderful and rich relationships with other artists and art professionals?

Leah Tinari: Making connections is key and a little luck is always good. I was fortunate enought to go to RISD which was the best experience ever. I meet so many excellent and talented people there who I have remained great friends with. Many of us came straight to New York after college and never left. I have a great group of artists friends in many different fields. We have a bit of a community and look out for each other, though artists are very competitve so watch out!

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with your readers and fans of your paintings, drawings, commissions and other Leah Tinari projects, and forthcoming exhibitions here?

Leah Tinari: I just want to say thank you if you like my work, that makes me very happy. Oh yes, I did just finish a year project with NIKE for their female "Delicious Campaign". I painted portraits of their female athletes and you can see the work throughout the year on their website, as well as ads of my paintings in Teen Vogue and Seventeen Magazine.

qi peng: How would you describe Leah Tinari to other people, especially the whole world?

Leah Tinari: Oh boy, that is the toughest question! I have no idea... Hmmmm Oh after I gave birth to my son last year with no drugs, a la natural, my very eccentric doctor, Dr. Chen who showed up to birth my son in hot pink cords and a wild floral pattern shirt and her bike helmet in hand met my parents in the elevator the next morning and said "That Leah, she's a real dynamo!" So who would be better to quote for this question than a woman who had gotten to know me so intimately over the past year! I was also so delirious and refering to my son as a she at the time, so when my mom told me that story it really made me feel good! I was proud of myself!

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