The face of the river, in time, became a wonderful book . . . which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it had uttered them with a voice. -- Mark Twain

The Roof is On Fire

Posted: September 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Last month there was a story in the LA Times about a local artist who got into a bit of a row with officials over his inflammatory artistic vision. The guy was on the street working on an oil painting of a Chase Bank branch in Van Nuys… depicting the roof as entirely engulfed in flames! Police were called out, and before the paint was dry on the canvas he found himself being questioned as a terrorist. Now he’s back in the news. That painting just sold for $25,000 to a German collector.

Joseph Campbell called the artist the “shaman” of modern society, in that the artist explores the spiritual realm, retrieving artifacts and insights that offer understanding and healing to the culture at large. Art facilitates the evolution of spiritual mythos through creating visual language. In this context, Alex Schaefer might even be called an exorcist.

Schaefer’s new series of en plein air paintings depicting banks on fire certainly strikes a nerve. It is also humorous. His work is similar in spirit to the Dada movement of the early 20th Century, but with all the blunt sarcasm of Punk Rock. The effect is cathartic and pleasurable. The viewer is provided with a much needed moment of Schadenfreude, as economists like to call that sweet feeling of enjoying someone else’s misfortune.

Schaefer worked in video games for years before deciding to focus his attention on the finer arts. He now teaches painting and drawing at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.  After being questioned by police on the sidewalk while he painted, he was visited weeks later at his home in Eagle Rock by two plainclothes detectives.

“One of them asked me, ‘Do you hate banks? Do you plan to do that to the bank?’ ”

Schaefer explained the image was only symbolic.

“The flames symbolize bringing the system down,” he said. “Some might say that the banks are the terrorists.”

He is surprised by the attention he’s been getting for his work. After his story was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times, Schaefer started to receive offers for his burning bank paintings. He decided to put the one of the bank in Van Nuys up for sale on e-bay, and received over 70 bids before selling it.  Oh, the irony… first he’s stopped for burning banks and now he’s laughing all the way to one.

The Huffington Post
Alex Schaefer, Burning Bank Artist, Sells A Piece For $25,200
September 13, 2011

Los Angeles Times
Artist’s Burning Bank Paintings Are Hot Commodities
Bob Pool
September 13, 2011

Los Angeles Times
An Artist’s incendiary Painting is his Bank Statement
Bob Pool
August 28, 2011

One Comment on “The Roof is On Fire”

  1. 1 Mia said at 9:33 am on September 18th, 2011:

    I had such a good little belly laugh when I read this one in the LA Times. I understand that he is now being commissioned to paint European banks. A comic skit –except that it was actual.

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