Zero Wields a Paintbrush

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:
Mostel Self Portrait

Well arm-chair art analysts: what do you think this work tells us about Zero Mostel?

2 thoughts on “Zero Wields a Paintbrush

  1. What do I think this piece tells us about Zero Mostel?
    Hm,…that he was a colorful character.🙂
    He probably had his own unique style – in his real life as well as on stage. He probably also had a health ego, as he paints himself rather large and flashy. Well, those are my two cents worth. Thanks, Shirley. Cheers,
    Jessica

  2. zero mostel could do it
    the extra depth
    making a character come alive
    making a character real
    with his own embellishments
    now most singers sound alike
    maybe because the music is flat in so many musicals
    it aint got it
    they put those sounds in them
    drums and more drums
    melody is disappearing
    or maybe a machine wrote it
    listen to zero in his shows
    what characters he created
    what emotion
    like in classical music with, for example, mahler’s first symphone with its beautiful melodies and harmonies
    i treasure that
    i write musicals.

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