From Shirley, with thoughts from the dramaturgical desk…
Why does ZERO HOUR (for which performances begin August 29) take place in a painter’s studio?
Zero Mostel stated famously and frequently that he was a painter first, a comedian and performer second. In an article about his (and other celebrities’) visual art, Baird Jones of Artnet Magazine wrote, “Zero Mostel painted virtually every day, insisting that he was foremost a painter and only secondly a thespian. In the work by Mostel that I’ve seen, he seemed to concentrate on painting his own hands, often fragmented in a Cubist manner and with a very subdued palette. Perhaps being blacklisted as a Communist during the 1950s contributed to Mostel’s introspection. Celebrity devotion to art-making may actually reflect a desire for privacy. The artist’s studio is a notoriously solitary place, after all.”
In a 2001 New York Times piece, Mel Gussow writes about his observations as Mostel’s neighbor on Monhegan Island, an artists’ sanctuary off the coast of Maine, musing, “Even before he was an actor, Zero was a dedicated artist, and, for him, the two professions were related. Through the art, one can begin to see the prismatic diversity of the man, who with bold strokes expressed his theatricality on canvas and paper. In the gallery were abstracts, nudes, abstract nudes and, most impressively, self-portraits. Each self-portrait was different, as if the subject were playing a series of roles in life.”
This one of Zero Mostel’s Self-Portraits:
Well arm-chair art analysts: what do you think this work tells us about Zero Mostel?