10 Questions for Erik Foss: Artist & Night Luminary
Deep as the night goes and we’re fortunate to have veteran bartender, always an artist and business owner of Lit Lounge & Fuse Gallery – Erik Foss – answer 10 essential questions. This talented artist is part of the group show “Night” at Munch Gallery. Being involved in New York nightlife and still in its seductive glow, Erik offers us a peek into that world and dishes on all things that go bump in it. So let’s run up the tab and get some tips before heading out into the glorious black night.
1. Your recent work featured at Munch Gallery is for the show “Night”. So what does the word “night” mean to you and memories of people in it?
First, let me tell you how awesome it is that we’re connected after all these years. (with the other artists of the show) I knew Harold Hunter and he was the first skater in NYC to welcome me in ’96. I am glad some of that community still exists in NYC. Night for me is when the fun goes down. I’ve made my living from the night since 1992. With that said, I’ve made my living with the people of the night involved in one way or the other. I am one of those people and part of a rare breed.
2. When you were bar tending, how and when did you find time to make your art? Or has opening Lit Lounge in 2002 given you more time to create art?
When you come from very little privilege or none in my case, you make the time to follow your dreams. Most of the successful artists, musicians, writers, etc. come from affluent backgrounds. It takes a special type of person to fight that hard and sacrifice everything to become successful in the arts. Success means making a living out of it.
3. Be you own mixologist – what would be in an Erik Foss drink?
A shot of Jagermeister and Budweiser.
4. Most people confess to a priest or a bartender, what was the most bizarre or craziest thing someone has ever said to you?
I think the drunken rape stories are the harshest shit people have told me. I heard this story about a real slimy club owner in NYC who raped a twenty-something year old boy with a dildo to the point that the kid had to go to the hospital. Now, that’s harsh! I’ve had a woman email me pictures of cuts, bruises, and a black eye given by violent lovers. I’ve had customers point out in the crowd who gave them STD’s (sexually transmitted disease). You name it, I’ve heard it! Not the kind of shit you’d hear in an office setting in say, Nebraska, that’s for sure! It makes one want to join a convent or some shit like that. It’s given me the thickest skin of any human I’ve ever met without a doubt.
5. What made you conscious that you wanted to be an artist?
My Dad was a drunk and he’d take us out, my twin brother and me, when we were kids. This bartender at this hotel bar told me early on when I was maybe 9 or 11 years old that I had what it takes to be an artist. He was a book and magazine illustrator. His name was Don and he became my sort of mentor. He drove a Jeep, skateboarded, had a dog, and tended bar while making art. I guess I sorta followed in his footsteps but I don’t own a Jeep though.
6. Do you play music when you work? If yeah, who’s your favorite artist or band?
I told Elliot Smith before he died that almost every piece of art I’ve made from 1993 to 2002 had his music in it. He said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever told me.” So, yeah man! Music is everything to me. I respect music so much. It’s just as much an art form like the stuff I do. My studio is surrounded with music. Every record album I’ve ever bought with turntables and 3 iPods with probably 10,000 sings are in my studio. So much of my work has music influences in it. Most of the titles of my paintings are inspired by titles of songs, records, or lyrics. I would probably go nuts without music.
7. In your expert opinion, how has New York nightlife changed in the past decade? Will it stay?
New York nightlife is always changing. America gets in more into debt so the powers that may continue taxing the small businesses more and more. Until the rich pay their fair share, the “little guy” will always be pounded. That’s the only difference – the laws and regulations to raise more money. Otherwise, it’s still fun and kids keep coming here to have fun. I hope we’re still around forever so that generations to come can have the same experiences I had. Come to NYC, it still rules!
8. For one day if you can do anything besides making art or handling business, what would it be?
I want to take my mother to see the Ancient Pyramids in Egypt. My mom’s never left the country and I want her to see some of the world before she leaves it.
9. Everyone goes to Rick’s bar in Casablanca, now if you were Bogey, would you let Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) on the plane or not at the end of the movie? If you are not a fan of bar related movies, how would you create the Erik Foss version?
It’s funny that I’m not a big bar movie fan as most of Hollywood’s interpretations of the bar world is incorrect. If I made a movie or sitcom about a bar – it would have to be X-Rated. Bars are X-Rated by the way as every temptation known to man lies in bars.
10. A great life lesson learned from being around the nighttime owls and personalities.
Nothing good happens in bars after it closes. Don’t go home with the bartender, never leave your drink with a stranger, never leave your bag or personal belongings unattended, don’t drive home drunk and don’t eat the brown acid. Those are the basics. The rest is common sense.
Erik is currently showing his work at “Night” in Munch Gallery . 245 Broome Street. New York, NY 10002. The show is on view till April 14, 2012.
You can also drop by at Lit Lounge & Fuse Gallery – 93 2nd Avenue #A. New York, NY 10003 – for some shit kickin’ good times.
Q & A interview by: Oscar A. Laluyan